Therapeutic Courts

As I meet with members of our community, it’s insightful to hear what’s top of mind regarding local criminal justice-related issues.  One common interest area from recent conversations has been our district’s utilization of therapeutic courts.

What is a therapeutic court?  It’s a type of specialized court program that seeks to focus on rehabilitation of underlying issues for individuals charged with crimes.  This alternative path is especially important when traditional criminal justice system consequences (i.e. monetary fines, probation or incarceration) are not shown to likely address the core problems leading individuals to commit similar crimes in the future.  When individuals charged with crimes are referred to a therapeutic court, they can have their criminal cases moved to a path where the court system offers them an opportunity to avoid incarceration or a criminal conviction, which often involves substance use disorder treatment, mental health treatment, and social services engagement.

In our district of Chatham and Orange Counties, we utilize several active specialized therapeutic and diversion courts, including Recovery Court (for substance use disorder), Community Resource Court (for mental health treatment) and Teen Court.  I am deeply proud of our work in building these robust rehabilitative programs.

In 2012, I created Outreach Court to help address issues for individuals experiencing homelessness, which was the first of its kind in North Carolina, because I recognized these individuals needed specific services and support to avoid future court system involvement.  I also believe substance abuse is a public health issue and should be addressed when possible through treatment, not incarceration.  I’m a big supporter of Recovery Court in that effort.

Youth also often benefit from diversion court programs.  I helped to create the Misdemeanor Diversion Program, a diversion court designed for youth under the age of 18, to focus on rehabilitation and avoid adult criminal records.  I’ve also been a long-time volunteer court judge in the Volunteers for Youth diversion teen court program, where teens actually serve in volunteer court roles and teens charged with offenses commit to community service in lieu of the juvenile court system.

As District Attorney, my priorities are community involvement, equity and justice.  I will continue to engage community resources to create better outcomes for all, including in therapeutic court programs.

If you’d like to learn more on therapeutic court programs, please reach out to me, and I look forward to sharing more about my ideas for such programs in the months ahead.  

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