by Laura Piontkowski
Governor Wolf introduced cost saving initiatives in the 2017 budget that recognize the importance of tackling health-related issues to improve the outcomes of the Commonwealth’s criminal justice system. By providing early intervention and treatment options to specific populations that can benefit the most, health improves along with public safety. New problem solving court systems would better address the underlying issues that result in crime, such as substance use disorder, mental health issues, and population-specific issues from veterans and youth.. Additionally, the budget expands intermediate punishment programs that reduce costly jail time for nonviolent offenders by supervising them in the community and ensuring they get healthy and stay out of trouble, and returning them to jail when people cannot keep that commitment.
The goal of problem solving courts and intermediate punishment programs is to supervise treatment and rehabilitation in order to change behaviors and reduce the impact that these behaviors have on the community. The criminal justice system partners with carefully screened defendants. Through proper health care, counseling, treatment, and education these partnerships reduce repeat offenses and costly jail sentences while at the same time improving the health and well-being of the defendants,their families, and their communities.
Problem solving courts have been shown to save as much as $27 for every $1 invested, and these savings are seen in the same budget year as the investment. These courts are backed by the American Bar Association and all 50 state-court chief justices.