Specialized court programs to share $14 million

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Troy — Michigan’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. announced Friday that nearly $14 million in grants have been awarded to fund specialty courts across Michigan.

Court programs, supervised through the State Court Administrative Office, focusing on drug, drunken driving, mental health and veterans treatment are underway in 122 courts statewide to help impact serious problems of the state’s citizens, Young told a group of more than 200 people gathered for the nonprofit Citizens Research Council luncheon at the Troy Marriott hotel.

“These grant programs help problem-solving courts continue to do what they do best: save lives, save money, strengthen families and build stronger communities,” Young said. “But what is even more important is the leadership provided by judges who are passionate about making a difference and committed to investing the time and effort needed to turn lives around.”

Michigan is leading the nation in regionalizing specialty courts — including two or more counties or courts to cross jurisdictional lines — for efficiency and providing access to programs, Young said.

This past year, about $13 million in grants went toward specialty courts. The money for fiscal year 2016, a 3 percent increase, comes from state and federal governments. The 122 specialty courts is up from 108.

Young, appointed to the state’s highest court in 1999, noted government is trying to reform itself by adopting basic private business tools and practices to improve court efficiency.

“We aren’t just talking a good game — we are seeing results,” he said.

Among efforts, he said:

■Improving outcomes by measuring court performance in every court and adopting best practices,

■Implementing technology to expand access.

■Reengineering court processes, including consolidating services and shrinking the number of judges, to increase efficiency.

“We have a system designed in the 19th century and we have been successful in applying 21st century justice,” he said.

Instead of costly incarceration, the regional specialty courts seek to supervise and drug-test offenders on a regular basis, he said. The result has been that those enrolled in special programs are much less likely to reoffend, Young said.

A state supreme court study found in 2014 that two years after admission to a drug court, graduates were 56 percent less likely to be convicted of a new offense. Those enrolled in sobriety courts and adult district drug courts were 75 percent less likely to be convicted of a new offense after two years and 98 percent of mental health court graduates improve their mental health, according to the study’s findings.

Metro area problem-solving courts that will receive grants in fiscal year 2016:

■Drug court programs in Third Circuit Court in Wayne County; Sixth Circuit Court in Oakland County; 16th Circuit Court in Macomb County; 44th Circuit Court in Livingston County; 16th, 18th and 33rd District Courts in Wayne; 37th, 39th and 41B District Courts in Macomb, and 47th, 51st and 52nd District Courts in Oakland.

■Mental health court programs in 29th District Court in the City of Wayne, 3rd Circuit in Wayne County, 6th Circuit in Oakland, 16th Circuit in Macomb, 53rd District in Livingston and 72nd District in St. Clair.

■New or expanded DWI treatment courts in 44th Circuit in Livingston, 36th District in Detroit, 42nd District in Romeo and 23rd District in Downriver Regional DWI.

■Urban Drug Court programs in 3rd Circuit in Wayne and 6th Circuit in Oakland.

■Veterans Treatment Court programs in 16th Circuit in Macomb, 17th District in Redford, 36th District in Detroit, 45th District in Oak Park and 53rd District in Livingston.

Young also touted another Michigan trial courts initiative, started two years ago, to provide access to interpreters for foreign-language speaking clients. It is a much needed service, he stressed.

“About 850,000 of Michigan residents speak a language other than English as their first language,” he noted.


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