CMIT Hosts One-Stop Shop for Texas Specialty Courts

CMIT Texas Specialty Courts

The Correctional Management Institute of Texas and the Center for Court Innovation will host a resource center for specialty court in the state.

The Correctional Management Institute of Texas (CMIT) is teaming up with the Center for Court Innovation (CCI) to support specialty courts in Texas by creating a one-stop shop for best practices, training resources, self- assessment tools, and ways to improve and expand operations.

Through a grant from the Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division, the Specialty Courts Resource Center will be established and a project manager hired by the CMIT and CCI to create a comprehensive repository of resources and information on specialty courts in Texas and across the nation. The program will begin by compiling what is available both locally and nationally to assist specialty courts, and whether they are well established or seeking certification. Included in these efforts, the Resource Center will conduct a survey of all 195 specialty courts in the state and well as provide guidance on the best and most promising practices across the country. The Resource Center is also well situated to develop and provide recommendations on baseline performance indicators for courts to use in evaluations.

“It will help advance specialty courts to the next level, and turn them up a notch,” said Judge Dib Waldrip of the 433rd District Court in Comal County and president of the Texas Association of Specialty Courts. “We want them to be a blend of effective and efficient. We went to them to be proficient so they can provide better service to the criminal justice system in the state.”

Specialty courts are problem-solving courts that target key issues in the criminal justice system through intensive supervision and better access to treatment programs. In Texas, these courts include adult and juvenile drug courts, DWI courts, veterans’ courts, family courts, mental health courts and commercially exploited persons’ courts.

CMIT was created in 1994 to help enhance professional development and technical assistance in juvenile and adult institutional and community correctional programs in Texas and to provide support to professional organizations in the field, including the Texas Association of Specialty Courts, whose mission is to reduce substance abuse and crime by establishing and funding drug courts through collaborative community efforts.

“The Correctional Management Institute of Texas within our George Beto Criminal Justice Center at Sam Houston State University is honored to serve in this critical role as a significant resource to our specialty courts across Texas,” said Doug Dretke, Executive Director of CMIT. “We are excited about our collaboration with the Center for Court Innovation and this opportunity to work with the leadership of the Criminal Justice Division of the Office of Texas Governor as well as the leadership across our state who are passionate about the role of specialty courts within our criminal justice system as we all work towards making our communities safer.”

The Center for Court Innovation, located in New York, helps create a more effective and humane justice system by designing and implementing operations programs, performing original research, and providing reformers around the world with the tools they need to launch new strategies.

“This is an ideal partnership,” said Aaron Arnold, director of Drug Court and Tribal Programs at the Center for Court Innovation. “By combining the Center for Court Innovation’s expertise in specialty courts and CMIT’s unique relationship with Texas’ justice system, we will be able to create a Specialty Court Resource Center that can meet the needs of Texas courts and help them achieve the best possible outcomes. The Governor’s Office deserves a great deal of credit for making this important investment in the justice system. The Specialty Courts Resource Center will serve as a leading example of how states can strengthen and support their specialty courts.”

The new resource center will collect the latest research and training programs available for specialty courts in Texas and across the nation to assist in creating or maintaining effective programs. These resources may include planning tools, fact sheets, research publications, videos and podcasts. The center also can help generate new and pertinent research opportunities for the courts, which may include screening and referral procedures, data collection capacities, and access to evidence-based treatment programs. These studies can help identify gaps and the feasibility of solutions.

“It’s going to be a great program,” said Judge Ray Wheless, a District Court Judge in Collin County and chair of the Specialty Court Advisory Council to Gov. Greg Abbott. “We need a resource center where you can go to one location to find everything you need to create or maintain a specialty court.”

The center also will develop and recommend baseline performance indicators that could be used to help individual courts evaluate the success of their programs. This tool could measure such issues as recidivism rates, cost savings, speed of referrals, linkages to treatment, completion rates, and adherence to best practices.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with the Center for Court Innovation in the establishment of the Specialty Court Resource Center,” said Erin Orrick, Research Director for CMIT. “This partnership allows the Resource Center to draw from each group’s area of expertise and provide the best possible service to the state’s specialty courts,”

The center also will survey courts to gather key information about their operations and personnel at the courts and to identify challenges they may be facing. The center can provide technical assistance to help review operations, identify areas for improvements, and develop an action plan. It also will provide multiple avenues for ongoing communication, such as a professional community message board, email blasts, social media sites, telephone access, or webinars to court personnel.

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