A New Specialty Court: Sex!

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Special court programs to deal with specific types of cases exist in every state. “Accountability Courts” or “Problem-Solving Courts” or “Therapeutic Courts” are special court programs that use treatment and social services in lieu of incarceration. We’ve covered specific types over the years: Drug Courts here and here, Mental Health Courts, Family Dependency Treatment Courts, and Veterans Courts.

These programs include intensive supervision by a team that includes the judge, and have proven to reduce recidivism and save their jurisdictions money, because treatment is less expensive than jail. Offenders with substance abuse and/or mental health problems get the help they need, and in many cases have their charges dismissed when they complete the program.

Substance abuse and mental health problems are obvious candidates for treatment in lieu of incarceration. What other type of human weakness might lend itself to treatment? Well, we covered Gun Courts, which do include education and supervisions, but but usually include incarceration. Could we have exhausted the possibilities for accountability/problem-solving/therapeutic courts?

Not quite, if you are in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake County Criminal Justice Services, the Salt Lake City Prosecutor’s Office, Third Judicial District Court, Salt Lake City Justice Court, the Utah Legal Defender Association, and other local agencies collaborate to offer the usual array of “therapeutic” programs. These include Drug Court, Mental Health Court, the “Passages” program combining treatment and restitution, and various mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

But Salt Lake City has two unique programs for another human weakness that can sometimes benefit from treatment: sex! Not the whole gamut of sex; just two types of behavior that can affect the general public, not just one’s sex partner.

John’s Offender Program includes a series of group educational sessions – and even a “prostitute panel” – for defendants charged with soliciting sex for money. Healthy Self-Expressions includes an assessment and both group and individual clinical sessions for defendants charged with sexual activity in a public place. Participants who successfully complete either program – and it’s not inconceivable that the same defendant could end up in both – have their charges dismissed.

Have we now seen every possible type of accountability/problem-solving/therapeutic courts? Perhaps, but given the cost of incarceration and the value of changing behavior instead of just punishing it, the criminal justice system may well find more ways to save. Keep an eye on CourtReference to keep up with new developments in your state.

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