I recently read an article in ‘The Psychologist’ magazine written by Dr Geraldine O’Hare about the development of ‘Problem Solving Courts’ in Northern Ireland. Dr O’Hare had travelled to a number of states in the US to learn about different practices and policies within the criminal justice system and identified that a problem-solving approach to justice is a model that has proven effective over time in many countries. This approach is an alternative to a short prison sentence, and involves the individual being made subject to a specialist intervention whilst being held accountable for their need to change, whilst also giving them the hope and support they need in the community.
What I like about this model is that Problem-solving justice acknowledges the importance of dealing with the root causes of crime and conﬂict- whether that be mental health issues, past trauma, addiction etc. The focus is on identifying individual needs and providing consistent support to navigate through community-based rehabilitative programming with the use of mentors and peer support. This approach holds oﬀenders accountable through monitoring participation in community-based programs (e.g., drug treatment, mental health treatment), and tracking progress towards rehabilitation goals. It is a model that engages the power of hope and promotes the individual’s capacity to change, whilst giving them the infrastructure needed to achieve this.
This for me is ‘Smart Justice’ and I hope that just like Northern Ireland, the UK criminal justice system can start to explore wider innovative approaches to rehabilitation that target the environmental and psychosocial factors bound up with offending behaviour as well as the behaviour itself.