Problem-Solving Courts


Problem-solving courts include drug courts, mental health courts, parental accountability courts, and other judicial problem-solving programs that serve as an alternative to the traditional judicial process. Established in the 1990s, drug courts were the first problem-solving courts that emerged as an alternative for people dealing with addiction. These programs incorporate drug treatment programs with frequent meetings with court officers who coach and counsel participants throughout the process. The programs can last months or several years, and at their conclusion participants generally have their charges dropped or record expunged. By ensuring that problem-solving courts are available, states can provide reduce incarceration rates and provide better outcomes for justice-involved individuals.

Problem Solving Courts-03
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Availability of Problem-Solving Courts

Are problem-solving courts generally available throughout the state?

40 points

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Evidence-based policies

Are courts required to use evidence-based best practices regarding the length of programming, reporting requirements, and sanctions that minimize the use of incarceration?

25 points

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Access to Courts

Are courts accessible by defendants with different offense types and abilities to pay?

20 points

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Type of court services

Are different types of problem-solving courts available? (Drug courts, mental health courts, Veterans courts, Parental accountability courts, etc.)

15 points

State Overview

Mississippi has established drug courts throughout the state, which are managed by the state Administrative Office of the Courts and a drug court advisory committee.

Several pilot mental health courts have been established, and localities can create additional types of problem-solving courts at their discretion. Standards are set by the advisory committee, comprised primarily of judges whose incentives are not properly aligned to adopt evidence-based policies. Availability of court services varies due to participants’ financial ability to pay. This structure could be improved by adding a diverse range of practitioners to the committee. Additionally, the state should ensure that individuals are not denied the opportunity to participate in programming due to their inability to pay.


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Availability of Problem-Solving Courts

Mississippi has established a statewide system of drug courts, with services available throughout the state. The courts are managed by individual circuit court districts, funded by state appropriation, and managed by the Administrative Office of the Courts and Drug Court Advisory Committee.

40/40 points

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Evidence-based Policies

Mississippi’s drug court policies are determined by a Drug Court Advisory Committee comprised primarily of judges, who are not appropriately incentivized to adopt evidence-based practices. This arrangement results in a lack of evidence-based policies, with many drug courts extending participation periods far beyond the nationally recommended time frame, and imposing sanctions that result in undue financial hardships on defendants.

5/25 points

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Access to Courts

Because state law allows individual courts to determine their policies regarding participation, many courts require participants to pay for their participation. This can limit participation to participants with financial means, creating disparate outcomes for individuals based on their ability to pay.

5/20 points

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Breadth of Court Services

State law creates a pilot program for mental health courts in several jurisdictions throughout the state, and allows individuals courts to set up different types of problem-solving courts at their discretion.

10/15 points


22. National Center for State Courts Problem Solving Courts, NDCI Best Practice Standards.
23. Miss. Code Ann. §9-23-11
24. Miss. Code Ann. §9-23-9
25. Miss. Code Ann. §9-27-3