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Judge Misses Alternative Courts

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Judge Misses Alternative Courts

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.

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