A testable theory of problem solving courts: Avoiding past empirical and legal failures

Richard L. Wiener, Bruce J. Winick, Leah Skovran Georges, Anthony Castro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Recent years have seen a proliferation of problem solving courts designed to rehabilitate certain classes of offenders and thereby resolve the underlying problems that led to their court involvement in the first place. Some commentators have reacted positively to these courts, considering them an extension of the philosophy and logic of Therapeutic Jurisprudence, but others show concern that the discourse surrounding these specialty courts has not examined their process or outcomes critically enough. This paper examines that criticism from historical and social scientific perspectives. The analysis culminates in a model that describes how offenders are likely to respond to the process as they engage in problem solving court programs and the ways in which those courts might impact subsequent offender conduct. This Therapeutic Jurisprudence model of problem solving courts draws heavily on social cognitive psychology and more specifically on theories of procedural justice, motivation, and anticipated emotion to offer an explanation of how offenders respond to these programs. We offer this model as a lens through which social scientists can begin to address the concern that there is not enough critical analysis of the process and outcome of these courts. Applying this model to specialty courts constitutes an important step in critically examining the contribution of problem solving courts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-427
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Emotion
  • Predicting outcomes
  • Procedural justice
  • Social cognitive model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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