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Treatment Courts and COVID-19 Adapting Operations

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2020
52 pages

This is a report on a research project that conducted virtual interviews with all active Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) treatment court grant recipients (N=215) in summer 2020 to determine their successes and challenges related to adapting to social distancing guidelines and mandates set by their respective states and jurisdictions to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.




The interviews focused on successes and challenges related to 1) communicating and monitoring participant progress; 2) conducting treatment court sessions and staffing activities; 3) responding to participant behavior; and 4) engaging participants in treatment and recovery services. Eighty percent of active BJA TTA grantees participated in the COVID-19 impact interviews (172 courts out of 215). Two-thirds (114) of participating grantees were traditional adult treatment courts, and 20 percent (34) were veterans treatment courts. There were also 16 DWI Courts, 6 tribal courts, and 2 mental health courts. The courts were in 37 states and 1 U.S. territory. Of the persons interviewed in this study, 82 percent were court coordinators. Highlights of the interview findings are noted. The switch to conducting virtual staffing meetings was relatively easy. Most resumed court activities within about 3 weeks of initial court closures. Many courts plan to continue virtual staffing going forward. Most courts (70 percent) stopped holding court sessions for about 1 month until virtual options were implemented. Virtual court hearings had mixed reviews. Although they eliminated transportation barriers, they had multiple technology challenges in the beginning. Once technological challenges were solved, many courts concluded that virtual court hearings are a good option for team members to attend remotely, work well for participants who live far from the court, and can be used as incentives for participants who are doing well in treatment. Many courts created virtual court session protocols or guidance for participants to follow. The lack of regular court proceedings resulted in fewer referrals to treatment courts over the summer. Statistical tables and appended methodological descriptions