Specialty Courts

Drug Diversion Program for Non-Violent Offenders

The Court operates a highly successful court-supervised comprehensive Drug Diversion Program for non-violent offenders. This voluntary program includes regular appearances before a judge, participation in substance abuse education, drug testing, and treatment. The Drug Diversion Program represents a collaborative effort between the Court of Common Pleas, the Department of Justice, the Public Defender, the private bar, the treatment providers, and the Treatment Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. (The TRI program is limited to New Castle County.) Collaboration with the Treatment Research Center (TRI) has provided the basis for observation, research, and analysis to launch scores of other drug diversion programs throughout the United States and internationally. Based on TRI`s research, in FY 2012, the Court continued its commitment to identify and accept into the program those defendants who will most benefit from the program and who are committed to a clean and sober lifestyle. The Court has handled more than 6,853 participants since its inception in 1998.

While there are a limited number of drug charges within the jurisdiction of the Court of Common Pleas, the Court serves a large number of clients with serious drug problems. To address the needs of all participants, the New Castle County Drug Diversion Court introduced a new tool to improve services to its clients on July 1, 2010. The new tool referred to as the "RANT Assessment" is a web-based placement tool developed by the Court`s partners at the Treatment Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. "RANT" is an acronym for Risk and Needs Assessment Triage. The assessment tool asks each client a series of questions which are used to assess each client`s risks and needs. The answers to the questions are used to group clients into one of four quadrants, those with: low risks/low needs; low risks/high needs; high risk/low needs; and high risk/high needs. Identifying these risk/needs groups allows treatment to be better tailored to meet the individual needs of the client, promote successful program completion, and to reduce recidivism rates.

Mental Health Court

The Court of Common Pleas established its first Mental Health Court in New Castle County in 2003, which has been expanded statewide. The Court continues to operate its Mental Health Court in New Castle County. Modeled on the Drug Court concept, the goal of Mental Health Court is to effectively serve the special needs of the mental health population through continuous judicial oversight and intensive case management and, through this approach, to reduce this population`s contacts with the criminal justice system. Approximately 260 cases have been referred to the Mental Health Court since its inception, exceeding the original goal of serving 100 misdemeanor offenders. Ninety-eight percent of the admissions have been compliant with their case management plans and, as of June 30, 2012, 89% of the individuals who successfully completed the program did not incur new convictions within six months of their graduation.

Trauma Informed Probation Program

In Fiscal Year 2012, the Court introduced the Trauma Informed Probation calendar (TIP). TIP is a new specialty court designed to handle female defendants who have experienced significant trauma in their backgrounds. The goal is to provide trauma-informed care to help improve outcomes for the TIP participants and to reduce recidivism rates. Trauma Informed Probation entered 30 participants in FY 2012.