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Evaluation of Civil Justice Programs and Policies Such as Problem Solving Courts and Probation Interventions

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This relates to the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services came into effect on 1 July 2010. The Agreement, which is for a period of four years, will enhance legal assistance service delivery through:

  • earlier resolution of legal problems for disadvantaged Australians that, when appropriate, avoids the need for litigation
  • more appropriate targeting of legal assistance services to people who experience, or are at risk of experiencing, social exclusion
  • increased collaboration and cooperation between legal assistance providers themselves and with other service providers to ensure clients receive ‘joined up’ service provision to address legal and other problems
  • a strategic national response to critical challenges and pressures affecting the legal assistance sector.

Problem-solving courts

These courts address the underlying problems that contribute to criminal behavior and are a current trend in the legal system of the United States. In 1989, a judge in Miami began to take a hands-on approach to drug addicts, ordering them into treatment, rather than perpetuating the revolving door of court and prison. The result was creation of a drug addict court, and diversion court. That same concept began to be applied to difficult situations where legal, social and human problems mesh. There were over 2,800 problem-solving courts in 2008, intended to provide a method of resolving the problem in order to reduce recidivism.

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According to the Center for Court Innovation, there are six principles required for problem-solving courts to be effective. There must be better information available to the staff through training, and comprehensive defendant information for justice officials. Community engagement with the public will encourage cooperation of witnesses, jurors, & community watch groups, and foster trust. Collaboration between legal officials (judges/prosecutors/attorneys’/probation officers), social service providers, victim groups and schools will keep everyone focused on the goal. Individualized Justice links offenders to the services they need and provides services for victims to aid in their recovery. Offenders must be held accountable with compliance monitoring and consequences for non-compliance. Outcomes need to be analyzed for cost versus benefit, and to provide continuous improvement of the process.

Probation interventions

Prison and probation interventions aim to ensure security and safety of the offender in question, staff, other offenders and society at large, and to support offender rehabilitation and reintegration into society. This includes the following principles:

  • offenders’ well-being and rehabilitation must be promoted to ensure safety;
  • individuals sentenced for terrorist acts do not all pose the same risk to society;
  • offenders are capable of positive change, and need support to disengage from extremism;
  • universal human rights must be upheld at all times;
  • positive staff-prisoner relationships and healthy prison settings are important;
  • multi-agency cooperation is crucial.


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