You be the judge. . .

Seven prior misdemeanor convictions – three petty thefts, two drunk driving, a disorderly conduct, and an assault. A brief stint in an alcoholism treatment program. A new felony charge for Driving Under the Influence. A mandatory minimum of 120 days of incarceration while awaiting trial. A history of truancy in treatment programs. What next? Previous jail time failed to protect the public, apart from the defendant’s brief period of incarceration. Previous treatment programs failed to rehabilitate the defendant who refused attend.

In response to these difficult questions looming in the minds of hundreds of judges concerning thousands of defendants, new approaches emerged for chronic offenders whose criminal activities appeared to be fueled primarily by alcohol and drug use. The therapeutic court is an alternative justice model that presents an offender with the option to participate in a closely monitored treatment program in lieu of jail time. The terms therapeutic court, wellness court, and problem-solving courts are now often used interchangeably.

Participants are given a mandatory schedule of treatment, work search, sobriety monitoring, peer support, and community work service. Most importantly, the participant appears weekly before the judge to discuss progress and failures; this personal interaction with a supportive yet strict judge is an essential, distinguishing element of these courts.

Before, when I was in trouble, it was the State of Alaska against me. In this court program, the judge, the case coordinator, the treatment provider, the prosecutor, the defender and myself – are all working together against my addiction.”

Anchorage Municipal Wellness Court founders, John Richard, Judge Jim Wanamaker and Janet McCabe.

Anchorage Municipal Wellness Court founders, John Richard, Judge Jim Wanamaker and Janet McCabe.

Strengthening Problem-Solving Justice in Alaska

Partners for Progress works with State of Alaska agencies, Alaska legislators, and the Alaska Court System to provide information regarding legislation that will strengthen and develop problem-solving justice in Alaska.

The Alaska Court System currently includes felony drug courts, felony and misdemeanor DUI courts, veterans’ courts, mental health courts, juvenile treatment courts, and family reunification/preservation courts.