Frequently asked questions
What are Problem Solving Courts?
Problem Solving Courts, which are also called Specialty Courts or Treatment Courts, attempt to address the underlying issues and behaviors that can result in court charges against an individual. Well known examples of Problem Solving Courts include DWI/Drug Court, Homeless Court, Veterans Court, Teen Court, Mental Health Court, and Family Treatment Court. If you are familiar with pre-trial diversion in criminal cases, Problem Solving Courts have similar goals and methodologies, but these Courts target specific groups and behaviors. Essentially these Courts incentivize recovery and stabilization in ways that jail and fines alone don’t.
How do Problem Solving Courts Work?
The Courts work with local providers to coordinate whatever social services are needed, and then incorporate the services into a defendant’s treatment and case resolution. The ultimate goal is to stabilize the defendant so that their behavior is managed in ways that don’t result in further court charges. As part of that, charges can be dismissed when the defendant demonstrates success in their treatment.
Are there any Problem Solving Courts in Dona Ana County?
Yes. Our Magistrate Court has a successful DWI/Drug Court. Our District Court has a Mental Health Court, a Drug Court, and a Veterans Court. No Court in Doña Ana County has a Homeless Court yet.
What are the benefits of Problem Solving Courts?
Every Judge faces the same problem when deciding what to do with a drunk driver or other defendant with addiction issues. While the Judge can simply sentence the offender to the maximum jail term, the defendant will eventually be released back into the community. Jail by itself does nothing to address the underlying problems–that some people drive or commit other offenses while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A jail term of more than a few weeks can also destroy the defendant’s life. They may lose their job, lose their home, get far behind on bills and child support, and end up in a worse position than when they entered jail. On top of all that, jail is expensive to the taxpayers. It costs nearly a hundred dollars per day to house an inmate in our Detention Center.
Problem Solving Courts give the Judge more effective options. With DWI/Drug Court, the defendant’s sentence is suspended and they are placed on supervised probation for up to a year. During that year, the defendant must participate in a wide range of therapeutic and community service activities while paying court costs and continuing to support themselves and their dependents. If the defendant refuses to do as directed by the Court, jail is always available as the ultimate sanction. But once again, the defendant will be out eventually, without having received treatment in jail. With Homeless Court, the defendant is stabilized with housing and any needed treatment, and then maintains that stability so that the charges can be dismissed.
Why do we need a Municipal DWI Court in Las Cruces when the Magistrate Court already has one? Isn’t that just duplicating the effort?
DWI and other substance abuse related offenses are charged in both Municipal and Magistrate Courts. Both sets of Judges need the sentencing options of DWI/Drug Court. Judge Goldbaum is a regular observer in the local Magistrate Court’s program. The Magistrate Court has already expressed the willingness to share resources with the Municipal Court to avoid unnecessary duplication.
What kind of Problem Solving Court is Judge Goldbaum trying to establish at Municipal Court?
Judge Goldbaum will focus on a Homeless Court, and possibly expand to a DWI/Drug Court. She is also exploring how existing Problem Solving Courts within the County may be able to assist Municipal Court Defendants.
Why is Homeless Court necessary?
A number of defendants in the Municipal Court are homeless. Additionally they may have overlapping issues with addiction and untreated physical and mental health conditions that contribute to the types of charges they receive such as trespass, public drinking and public urination, disorderly conduct, theft. Research shows that getting these defendants into housing is the most critical step for trying to address their other issues successfully. So agencies that work with the homeless community get them stabilized, vouch for that stability, and then the Court can meet with the defendant to dismiss the charges as appropriate.
How does it differ from DWI/Drug Court?
With Homeless Court, the Judge is not personally involved until the very late stages of the proceedings. In DWI/Drug Court the Judge is involved at every stage of the process from the beginning. But the goal is the same—reducing recidivism and incarceration, and making the community safer.
Homeless Court also differs in that it travels to where the Homeless are. In Las Cruces, that is the Community of Hope campus. This is because homeless individuals face obstacles getting to Court that other defendants generally don’t, such as transportation to Court, having no place to leave their possessions, having clothing or hygiene that can be deemed unsuitable to the formal Court setting, and trauma dealing with perceived authority figures.
How Long will it take to implement these Courts?
It depends on some factors that are outside the Court’s control, but the goal is to have a Homeless Court launched within a year, and a DWI/Drug Court soon after that. Are there statistics about the success rates of these Courts? The treatment court model has been studied in great detail over many decades. However, it is important to realize that these courts are crafted to serve specific groups of offenders, and that the needs of each group are different. Regarding adult DWI defendants, the evidence that has been gathered and studied strongly suggests that the treatment court model reduces reoffending rates. The evidence suggests that the model is worthwhile for less-studied Problem Solving Courts as well.
Didn’t Municipal Court previously have a DWI Court? What happened to that Court?
Yes, the Las Cruces Municipal Court had a Drug Court Program in the early days of treatment courts. Much of the early work was done without good research on best practices, leaving judges to work according to their own ideas. Very few Judges are mental health or addiction professionals. Inevitably, many of these programs failed to rehabilitate their participants and were abandoned as ineffective.
The situation today is quite different. Every DWI/Drug Court Judge is trained in research-based best practices before presiding over any DWI Drug Court sessions, and every case is staffed before each session with mental health professionals, law enforcement representatives, misdemeanor compliance officers, and counsel for the City and the defense. Judges need never again “fly blind” in deciding how to mange a participant. Judge Goldbaum can bring the advantages of a modern, science-based approach to the Las Cruces Municipal Court.
Why is it necessary for Judge Goldbaum to run for Municipal Judge I to establish these Problem Solving Courts at Municipal Court?
She is running for the presiding position at the Court because the current Court administration does not support Problem Solving Courts at Municipal Court.
Don’t these Courts give preferential treatment to some defendants? Isn’t that a form of reverse discrimination? Isn’t it “coddling” criminals or just giving them a slap on the wrist?
When Judges impose sentences, they look at the individual’s history, the seriousness of the offense, and the defendant’s remorse or willingness to change behavior. Problem Solving Courts provide more tools to Judges in order to help a defendant not return to Court. Each Defendant is different, and appropriate treatment for each defendant is different. Problem Solving Courts are another way to match appropriate assistance and remedies to defendants who need and want the help.
What are the problems or down sides of Problem Solving Courts?
These Courts don’t work for everyone. But they are tailored to specific behaviors and based on research and evidence in order to have as much success as possible. Not being able to help everyone suffering from addiction or homelessness isn’t a good reason to not help those who can be helped.
More than three quarters of our Magistrate Court DWI/Drug Court participants finish the program and do not re-offend. That saves the taxpayer the costs of prosecution and incarceration for future offenses, and, in the case of DWI/Drug Court, makes the public safer by removing these drunk drivers from the road.
If the services already exist in the community for people with addictions and homelessness, why should Courts get involved with these issues?
Courts have always had a role in trying to divert crime and make the community safer. Problem Solving Courts organize and utilize existing resources, targeting them in very specific ways to reduce recidivism. Research on Problem Solving Courts has demonstrated conclusively that the participation of the Judge is the single most important factor in the treatment court model. Researchers have called this the “black robe effect.” Judges are authority figures, and a participant who might ignore another treatment professional is more likely to pay attention to the Judge because the Judge has the power to put that person in jail.
Aren’t Problem Solving Courts expensive? How will these services be paid for, and who pays for them?
Municipal Court is funded through tax dollars. DWI/Drug Court and Homeless Court would be funded through the Court’s budget, which already pays for staff salaries, probation oversight, and statistical tracking. Municipal Court can also make use of federal and private grants available for these Courts. Problem Solving Courts are an investment aimed at reducing recidivism, incarceration, and expenses like emergency room visits. They have been found to be cost-effective for the return gained on dollars spent.
Are there resources that I can access to get more detailed information about Problem Solving Courts?
There are numerous articles, books, and websites dedicated to Problem Solving Courts. Most have links to other websites or recommended reading. Here are some excellent places to start:
National Association of Drug Court Professionals website: www.nadcp.org
“Start Here” by Greg Bergman and Julian Adler: A Road Map to Reducing Mass Incarceration (2018)
National Center for State Courts website: www.ncsc.org
The Homeless Court Program: Taking the Court to the Streets by Steven R. Binder: www.nchv.org/images/uploads/BinderArticle(3).pdf
The Homeless Court Program website: www.homelesscourtprogram.org (see Core Elements)
“Punishment Without Crime” by Alexandra Natapoff (2018). This book addresses the disastrous effects misdemeanor convictions and incarceration can have on one’s life.
How can I ask you questions I still have?
You can email Judge Goldbaum through her campaign manager Luis Guerrero at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions have to be screened to ensure that she doesn’t know who is asking them. Also, please understand that Judge Goldbuam can’t discuss any specific case or defendant. If your question can be answered, the response will come through Luis’ email so as to maintain your anonymity and the Judge’s impartiality.