A judge on the Iowa Court of Appeals is lamenting the demise of three of the state’s specialty courts which have kept the drug-addicted and the mentally ill from repeatedly returning to prison. Judge Tom Bower was an assistant prosecutor in Black Hawk County when he helped start a drug court for non-violent offenders.
The state has about a dozen “specialty” courts, including a new court just for domestic violence cases, but due to a reduction in federal grant money two of the state’s drug and mental health courts closed June 30th. Unlike the state’s crowded criminal courts, Bower says judges in these specialty courts are able to call offenders back into court within 24 hours of a probation violation.
Judges who preside in these specialty courts for drug addicts and the mentally ill initially sentence people to intensive treatment and supervision rather than time sitting in a prison cell. Bower and other advocates are pressing legislators to provide more state funding to replace lost federal dollars.