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Home Courts By County El Paso County Problem Solving Courts
Problem Solving Courts
History and Overview

History and Overview

Problem-solving courts can also be known as specialty, treatment, collaborative, or accountability courts, and can be criminal or non-criminal courts for adults, children and families.  The information in this section will primarily focus on our Criminal Problem Solving Courts (Adult Criminal Drug Court, Healthy Engaged and Sober Living  Court, Veteran Trauma Court, Domestic Violence Court and Driving Under the Influence Court). The Adult Criminal Drug Court and Healthy Engaged & Living Sober Court share a joint referral process under the collective name of Recovery Court.  Information about our other non-criminal Problem Solving Courts can be found under their direct link (Child Support Court – Responsible Parent Program and Family Treatment Drug Court).

Problem-solving courts were developed in the 1990s as an innovative response to address specific needs and problems of offenders that were not or could not be adequately addressed in traditional courts, such as addiction, mental illness, and domestic violence. Problem-solving courts seek to promote outcomes that will benefit not only the offender but the victim and society as well.

This model of justice seeks to strike a balance between several points of tension:

  • therapeutic vs. retributive goals of justice
  • the needs of victims vs. the rights of the offender
  • the need to rehabilitate offenders vs the need to protect the public

Problem-solving court models have been shown by a growing body of research to be an effective means of reducing substance abuse, managing mental illness, and increasing the likelihood that people will remain in recovery and reintegrate into their communities as productive and contributing members.  Studies of established programs also demonstrate that they reduce jail and prison costs.

The first drug court in Colorado began in Denver in 1994.  In recent years, many other jurisdictions in Colorado have joined the problem-solving court movement in earnest and have expanded the traditional target populations to address military/veteran issues, youth offenders, child support enforcement, trauma, dependency & neglect cases, and City/Community issues.  As of February 2016, there are 77 problem-solving courts in operation in 22 judicial districts in the State of Colorado.

Here in the 4th Judicial District (El Paso and Teller Counties) we have six problem-solving courts.  You may click on the following webpage links to read more about them.

In general, problem-solving courts share some common elements:

  • Evidence Based Practices.  Problem-solving courts adopt practices that have been tested in the real world and proven by extensive research to be effective.
  • Focus on Outcomes.  Problem-solving courts are designed to provide positive case outcomes for victims, society, and the offender (e.g., reducing recidivism or creating safer communities).
  • Judicial Involvement.  Judges take a more hands-on approach to addressing problems and changing behaviors of defendants.
  • Collaboration.  Problem-solving courts work with external parties to achieve certain goals (e.g., developing partnerships with mental health providers).
  • Non-traditional Roles.  These courts and their personnel take on roles or processes not common in traditional courts.  For example, some problem-solving courts are less adversarial than traditional criminal justice processing.
  • Screening and Assessment.  Use of research based screening and assessment tools to identify appropriate individuals for the court is common.


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