Specialty courts address the root causes of justice system involvement through specialized dockets, multidisciplinary teams, and a non-adversarial approach. Offering evidence-based treatment, judicial supervision, and accountability, specialty courts provide individualized interventions for participants, thereby improving public safety, reducing recidivism, restoring lives, and promoting confidence and satisfaction with the justice system process.
In 1989, Florida started the national specialty court movement by creating the first drug court in the United States in Miami-Dade County. Based on the original design, other models of specialty courts were implemented to further assist individuals with distinct concerns, such as veteran mental health, juvenile substance use, and intoxicated drivers.
In 1994, Arkansas implemented the first drug court in Pulaski County, known as S.T.E.P. or the Supervised Treatment and Education Program. Currently, Arkansas has a total of forty-nine (49) adult drug courts, sixteen (16) juvenile drug courts, fourteen (14) DWI courts, five (5) HOPE & Swift courts, sixteen (16) veterans treatment courts, five (5) alternative sentencing courts, two (2) family treatment courts, and two (2) mental health courts.
- Specialty court programs integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services within justice system case processing.
- Using a nonadversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting participants’ due process rights.
- Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the specialty court program.
- Specialty court programs provide access to a continuum of alcohol, drug, and other related treatment and rehabilitation services.
- Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing.
- A coordinated strategy governs court responses to participants’ compliance.
- Ongoing judicial interaction with each program participant is essential.
- Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness.
- Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective specialty court program planning, implementation, and operations.
- Forging partnerships among specialty court programs, public agencies, and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances program effectiveness.