Miller-McCune magazine profiles the San Francisco Drug Court, judging it a “real departure from the stern and solemn courtrooms of Perry Mason and Atticus Finch.” Falling under the larger umbrella of what have been dubbed “problem-solving courts,” drug courts are becoming increasingly common around the country and across the globe. They were introduced in 1989 in Miami-Dade County, Fla., where Janet Reno, the state's attorney general, helped champion the idea. By offering addicts treatment instead of jail, drug court was a conscious response by frustrated judges who were being overwhelmed by the results of the '80s cocaine boom and felt that they were processing cases for the same drug-addicted criminals.
Since then, studies have confirmed that drug courts can reduce recidivism and save money. Drug courts were the first in a larger shift toward “problem-solving justice,” a court-reform movement that calls for greater attention to the root causes of crime. These courts tackle a range of problems thought to be at the core of criminal behavior, including addiction and mental health. There has also been a simultaneous development of “community courts,” an effort to broaden the problem-solving court model to nonviolent offenders who may not have an explicit drug or mental health issue.