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What Are Alaska Therapeutic Courts?

In Alaska, therapeutic courts also known as “problem-solving” or “wellness” courts. These courts are different from other traditional courts based on their systematic approach in dealing with offenders. Alaska Therapeutic courts attempt to deal with the root problems that lead to offenses punishable by imprisonment. Examples of such underlying factors include drug abuse and poor psychological health.

These courts should not be misconstrued as the “easy way out” of criminal offenses. Instead, they provide an alternative justice model by collaborating with a supervising judge, district attorney, defense counsel, etc. Offenders are closely monitored by probation officers and mental health treatment providers.

A typical therapeutic court may consist of:

  • Judge
  • Prosecuting lawyer
  • Defense lawyer
  • Drug misuse provider (or mental health care professional)
  • Probation Officer or any other related law enforcement official
  • Case manager or coordinator
  • Guardian appointed by the court for Child in Need of Aid (CINA) Therapeutic Court (CTC)
  • Project coordinator

Therapeutic court defendants are evaluated for eligibility before they are offered the chance to participate in the system. The alternative judicial system is optional and usually requires some treatment associated with the underlying causes. By agreeing to engage in a therapeutic court and meeting all the criteria, a defendant may minimize the amount of jail sentence connected to a crime. Under similar circumstances, the case may be withdrawn.

Once offenders are admitted into an Alaska therapeutic court, they are expected to join weekly or monthly court performance proceedings. This, however, depends on their phase in the program. The team members in the therapeutic court meet regularly to evaluate the success of offenders in their care. They equally meet to recommend rewards or penalties that may better promote the performance of the participating offenders. Each therapeutic court in Alaska has its specifics, but the basic operations are as follows:

  • Developing a process to monitor and facilitate the success of participating offenders;
  • A system of penalties and growth rewards in the program;
  • Upon satisfactory completion of the program, the jail (or other) sentences of the participants shall be adjusted/removed in line with the agreements initially concluded.;
  • Child in Need of Aid cases will be closed at the Office of Children’s Services after the completion of the program. As a result, parents will regain their parental rights and reunite with their children;
  • Participating offenders who fail in the process will be dismissed from the program. Also, their previous sentences will be imposed immediately.

Currently, there are fourteen therapeutic courts in the state of Alaska. Two of these courts involve Child in Need of Aid (CINA) cases, while three courts work with offenders with psychological issues. Cases handled by these courts are usually those associated with drug/alcohol addiction. The program runs for more than 12 months. During that period, participants are required to submit weekly urine analysis, maintain a job, and partake in drug addiction counseling sections. Ultimately, successful participants will have their case dismissed and allowed to rejoin society. Below are the locations of all therapeutic courts in Alaska:

Drug Courts: These courts engage defendants with substance addictions. Drug courts are sometimes associated with DUI/DWI cases.

Felony Drug Court in Anchorage

Nesbett Courthouse (Courtroom 502)

825 West 4th Avenue

Project Coordinator: (907) 264–0892

Operating hours: Mondays, 2:30 pm

Misdemeanor Drug Court in Anchorage

Boney Courthouse (Courtroom 31)

303 K Street

Project Coordinator: (907) 264 0892

Operating hours: Thursdays, 2:00 pm

Bethel Drug Court

Bethel Courthouse (Courtroom 103)

204 Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway

Project Coordinator: (907) 543–1121

Operation hours: Friday mornings

Fairbanks Drug Court

Rabinowitz Courthouse (Courtroom 202 or 203)

101 Lacey Street

Project Coordinator: (907) 452–9307

Operating hours: Thursdays, 3:30 pm

Juneau Drug and DUI Court

Dimond Courthouse

123 4th Street

Project Coordinator: (907) 463–4756

Operating hours: Wednesdays, 4:00 pm

Palmer Drug & DUI Court

Palmer Courthouse (Courtroom 502)

435 South Denali Street

Project Coordinator: (907) 746–8142

Operating hours: Thursdays, 2:30 pm

Mental Health Courts: These courts deal with mentally ill or cognitively impaired defendants. Below are their addresses:

Anchorage Mental Health Court - Coordinated Resources Project (CRP)

Boney Courthouse (Courtroom 28)

303 K Street

Project Coordinator: (907) 264–0886

Operating hours: Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, 2:45 pm

Juneau Mental Health Court

Dimond Courthouse

123 4th Street

Project Coordinator: (907) 463–4756

Operating hours: Wednesdays, 4:00 pm

Palmer Mental Health Court

Palmer Courthouse

435 South Denali Street

Project Coordinator: (907) 746–8142

Operating hours: Tuesdays, 2:30 pm

Family Courts: These courts handle cases about parental rights and parents suffering from drug addiction. Family courts also resolve other family problems such as spousal or child abuse. Listed below are their addresses:

Anchorage Family Court - CINA Therapeutic Court

Nesbett Courthouse

825 W 4th Ave

Project Coordinator: (907) 264–0580

Operating hours: Tuesdays, 3:30 pm

Palmer Family Court

Palmer Courthouse

435 South Denali Street

Project Coordinator: (907) 746–8183

Tribal Wellness Court: This court addresses drug abuse and other concerns through collaborations between state courts and tribal courts of Alaska Natives.

Kenai Tribal Court

Kenaitze Tribal Courthouse

508 Upland Street

Project Coordinator: (907) 283–8552

Operating hours: Fridays, 2:00 pm

Veterans Court: This court focuses on veterans who are brought before a state court for homelessness and drug abuse.

Anchorage Veterans Court

Boney Courthouse

303 K Street

Project Coordinator: (907) 264–0466

Operating hours: Mondays, 1:00 pm

The statewide therapeutic court office is located at the following address:

Statewide Office in Anchorage

820 W 4th Avenue

Program Coordinator: (907) 264–8250

Email: mbartley@akcourts.us

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