Proactive judges are changing the way courts conduct business and initiating a paradigm shift. By responding to their own idealism, wanting courts to produce better outcomes and being receptive to community input and collaboration, they are addressing social problems. These proactive judges appear particularly adept at connecting with court participants and creating a therapeutic alliance with individuals the court is designed to help. By combining their mantle of authority with approval of positive change, proactive judges are encouraging chronic court users like mentally disordered offenders and drug abusers to want to heal. By combining TJ, PL, and RCJ, proactive judges are infusing courts with an 'ethic of care' and creating communities of care. By their problem-solving strategies, these judges are improving access to justice and enhancing confidence in the courts.

Proactive judges in specialized courts typically work collaboratively with social service providers and legal actors to develop the courts. Because this collaboration begins in the planning stages, the relationship between the judge and social service providers is a symbiotic one where the judge relies on professionals for expertise and the professionals rely on the judge for leadership. The team approach ensures a mutually supportive relationship between the judge and service providers and other legal actors, with judicial decisions being informed by community and justice professionals. Because the collaborative approach overcomes the insular, out-of-touch nature of traditional judging, other members of the team welcome the 'hands-on' approach of proactive judges. They tend to be successful due to their skills in negotiating with participants, social service providers, and other legal actors. A few evaluations, cited in this chapter, suggest that proactive judging has been successful in engaging communities to become involved in problem-solving with the courts, improving outcomes for court participants, and increasing public confidence in the courts.

Because oftheir success, the resourcefulness and creativity of proactive judges is being tested in a new innovation, re-entry courts, designed for convicts being released from prison. By one estimate, 600 000 inmates are released from adult prisons or juvenile institutions into the community each year (Petersilia, 2000).

In a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, nine jurisdictions are serving as pilot sites of the Reentry Partnership Initiative, whose goal is better risk management via enhanced surveillance, risk and needs assessment, and prerelease planning. The Department's new Reentry Courts Initiative is based on the drug court model and taps the court's authority to use sanctions and incentives to help released offenders remain crime free. (Petersilia, 2000, p. 5)

Policy-makers recognize that no effective means of reintegrating offenders released from prison into the community exits (Travis, 2000). Borrowing many of the principles of drug courts, judges are being called on to sit on re-entry courts from the time of sentencing of an offender (Travis, 2000).

The judge-centered model described here obviously borrows heavily from the drug court experience. Both feature an ongoing, central role for the judge, a 'contract' drawn up between court and offender, discretion on the judge's part to impose graduated sanctions for various levels of failure to meet conditions imposed, the promise of the end of supervision as an occasion for ceremonial recognition. (Travis, 2000, p. 8)

The new development seeks to utilize judges as case managers and agents of change. Clearly, the success of proactive judges and specialized courts has instilled confidence in policy-makers and the public that judges may be better able to integrate offenders into the community than parole officers and community programs of the past. Perhaps their newly enhanced roles as problem-solvers and respected coordinators of social and psychological services will generalize to re-entry courts as well as more traditional courts. The integration of TJ, PL, and RCJ can serve as a jurisprudential basis for such an 'aftercare' court by applying needed social and psychological services to released convicts with many social, educational, and psychological disabilities.

0 0

Post a comment