Accolades, New Funding Awarded to Minnesota Treatment Courts in 2017
Drug courts, DWI courts, veterans courts, and other forms of treatment courts have become a core tool in Minnesota’s battle against drug addiction and crime. These proven tools have been shown to reduce recidivism, save costs in the justice system, and produce better outcomes for offenders struggling with addiction or mental health issues. With one new treatment court opening in Minnesota in 2017 – the Roseau County Adult Treatment Court – the state now has 60 operational treatment courts serving 59 of the state’s 87 counties.
While Minnesota has seen a significant increase in the number of treatment court programs operating across the state in recent years, many of these programs were founded on short-term grants or with other uncertain funding streams.
During the 2017 Legislative Session, the Minnesota Judicial Branch asked the Governor and Legislature to support the continued success of Minnesota’s treatment courts, ultimately securing nearly $1.7 million per year in new state funding for these existing programs.
Duluth DWI Court Becomes National Model
In May, the National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration named the South St. Louis County DWI Court in Duluth as one of four national Academy Courts in the United States. As an NCDC Academy Court, the South St. Louis County DWI Court now helps develop, identify, and test national best practices for DWI courts, provide technical assistance, and hosts jurisdictions interested in starting a DWI court.
The Court was selected from more than 700 DWI courts nationwide, and will serve a term of three years. The NCDC officially designated the program as an Academy Court during a special ceremony at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth on May 5.
Other Drug Court Awards and Anniversaries
Early Case Management/Early Neutral Evaluation Program Enhanced
- On May 25, the Otter Tail County DWI Treatment Court was awarded the Excellence in Corrections Award at the Minnesota Association of County Probation Officers’ 60th Annual State Conference.
- More than 60 people gathered at Diamond Point Park in Bemidji on August 7 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Beltrami County DWI Court.
- The Olmsted County Drug Court celebrated its first anniversary during a public celebration at the Olmsted County Government Center in Rochester on November 30.
- On December 7, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota named the Itasca County Wellness Court - a joint effort of Itasca County, Minnesota’s Ninth Judicial District, and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe – one of 25 recipients of the 2017 Local Government Innovation Award.
- Anoka County’s Drug Court and Veterans’ Court celebrated their one-year anniversaries in December, and Wright County’s Drug Court completed its first year in November.
In 2017, the state Early Case Management (ECM)/Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) Program
implemented some significant enhancements. In July, supervision of the Program Manager’s position was transferred from the Tenth Judicial District in Ramsey, MN, to State Court Administration in St. Paul. This change provides the Program with greater access to state-level resources and support. In October, the Program launched a new Provider Availability and Scheduling System (PASS) for use statewide, which Goodhue County District Court was the first to use as it launched its new local ECM/ENE program.
The ECM approach to family law cases uses aggressive, early judicial intervention to encourage parties to focus on resolving and narrowing the contested issues that are barriers to settlement. ENE strives to move families through court efficiently and inexpensively by working with them early on to reach agreements that will foster the best interests of their families.
Working with the State Family ECM/ENE Committee, the ECM/ENE Program Manager provides technical assistance and support to local courts with existing ECM/ENE programs and those wanting to start a program. The Program Manager also develops consistent business practices for use across all programs to address outside stakeholder confusion over program variations. The goal is to preserve programs’ autonomy while increasing the simplicity and uniformity of practice for litigants, providers, and attorneys across district and/or county lines.
In addition, the implementation of PASS is revolutionizing the administration of ECM/ENE programs across the state by incorporating several systems for managing ENE provider rosters, roster applications, and verification of provider qualifications and availability, into one system that also allows for in-courtroom scheduling of ENE sessions.
Judicial Branch Working to Improve Pretrial Release Process
Over the past few years, the Minnesota Judicial Branch has been working closely with state and local justice partners and other stakeholders to explore improvements to the process and tools judges use when making pretrial release decisions. Pretrial release decisions include determinations by judges as to whether individuals arrested and detained are released before trial on their own recognizance, on bail or bond, and with conditions.
Two statewide workgroups spent considerable time studying the framework for pretrial release decisions in Minnesota and nationally, including legal issues, research in the field, pretrial services resources, and other considerations. In 2016, the Minnesota Judicial Council approved recommendations of the first workgroup, including a requirement that each county use an evidence-based pretrial risk assessment tool that has been tested and validated by research science experts. A second workgroup with state and local justice partners recommended a pretrial risk assessment tool for statewide use. As a result, 82 counties in the state will soon use a standard pretrial risk assessment tool approved by the Minnesota Judicial Council. Training on the tool’s purpose, scoring, and validation process will also be available as part of the tool implementation. The other five counties in the state will independently validate their customized risk assessment tool.
Treatment Courts: Proven and Effective
Since 2012, Minnesota has conducted three statewide evaluations of treatment court programs
. These evaluations, as well as many other national studies, have shown the real, positive impact of treatment courts:
- Reduced recidivism among program participants;
- Long-term cost savings in the criminal justice system; and
- Better outcomes for offenders struggling with addiction, including higher rates of employment, stable housing, and educational attainment.