Specialty Courts are problem-solving courts that focus on treatment for those with substance abuse or mental health issues or the specific needs of Veterans or sexually exploited persons. Specialty Court programs involve collaboration with other criminal justice and community stakeholders who work together with the common goals of changing the client’s behavior and addressing the root causes of abuse.
The Mental Health Court program targets high risk/needs felony clients with serious mental health needs and is designed for use by the district court of Harris County as a sentencing alternative to incarceration. The Mental Health Court program follows a progressive sanctions model that involves frequent interactions between the judge and the client, and includes a full treatment team that includes the judge, specially assigned prosecutors and defense attorneys, the community supervision officers (CSO) and treatment providers. The assigned judge is immediately responsive to problems and issues officers have with clients, in line with the research that indicates that quick response to violations is essential. The program addresses violations of clients swiftly and appropriately using a system of graduated sanctions and incentives. Treatment providers and HCCSCD CSOs utilize a cognitive behavioral component where applicable, addressing criminogenic needs, including substance abuse if present. The length of stay varies greatly for mental health court, but typically clients are maintained for the duration of their placement.
Felony level offense
Moderate to High risk on TRAS
Serious mental health issue (Psychotic, Bipolar, Major Depressive Disorders)
Global Assessment Functioning (GAF) level of 50 or below at intake
Significant barriers to less restrictive settings including recent suicide attempts, hospitalizations, or non-compliance with treatment/medication
History of non-compliance with supervision
Minimum of 2 years on supervision
Participating in intensive MH program (e.g., New Start, ACT, FACT, VA)
* Mental Health Court referrals will need to be staffed with MH Court staff prior to making the recommendation.
Drug Courts are designed to reduce drug usage and recidivism using a combination of early identification of clients with substance abuse issues, supervised treatment and judicial monitoring. Clients work through a phase system, which includes a highly structured treatment program. There are multiple contacts each week with the supervision officer, and court visits are also part of the program. Clients progress to less frequent contact and eventually into an aftercare program. Regular contact with treatment providers is an important component of the program, and action is taken immediately if signs of relapse become apparent. Length of stay ranges from eighteen months to five years or more.
Moderate to high risk
Significant substance abuse/dependency history
Failed previous community based treatment attempts
Significant barriers to being successful at less intensive interventions
The purpose of the DWI court is to provide an intensive intervention to misdemeanor DWI clients who at significant risk to reoffend. The focus of the DWI court is to address criminal thinking as well as prosocial skills to help clients maintain a sober lifestyle and to eliminate impaired driving. The DWI court is based on a CBT/Social Learning model in which client’s thoughts, feelings, and actions are addressed systematically as well as a very structured response to both positive and unhealthy behavior.
Low-Moderate to high risk clients
High risk DWI identified by DWI Trailer
Substance abuse or dependency criteria
Significant barriers to general/DUI caseloads
The purpose of the Veterans Court is to provide interventions to those placed on supervision who have been involved in military service. Many servicemen and women return to the community and face significant barriers. This court is designed to minimize the barriers and help these clients be successful in transitioning to a prosocial lifestyle. The court works in direct connection with the Veterans Administration to ensure that the clients are receiving the appropriate services.
Currently active duty, reserves or National Guard or discharged with an honorable or general discharge
Pending felony offense—excluding 3G offenses other than aggravated assault
Legal resident or US citizen and living in Harris County or a contiguous county
Mental health disorder and/or substance abuse issue that impacted the offense
Eligible for Veterans Administration services
* Veterans Court referrals will need to be staffed with Veterans Court staff prior to making the recommendation.
The purpose of the Veterans Court is to provide interventions to those placed on supervision who have been involved in military service. Many servicemen and women return to the community and face significant barriers. This court is designed to minimize the barriers and help these clients be successful in transitioning to a prosocial lifestyle. The court works in direct connection with the Veteran’s Administration to ensure that the clients are receiving the appropriate services.
Pending misdemeanor offense (must be approved by District Attorney’s Office)
Legal resident or US citizen and living in Harris County
Criminal behavior is service connected (to be determined by VA)
* Staffed with HCCSCD Veterans Court Supervisor
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