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An Outsider's Perspective on Quality Improvement of Collaborative Courts

by Mikayla Aubry

I had the pleasure of attending the Federal Judicial Center’s Quality Improvement Seminar in San Francisco last week. This seminar brought together four different districts across the nation that are looking to grow and improve their problem-solving courts. These collaborative court teams came to this seminar with an open mind and a thirst to learn. You could see as each district presented, the others taking notes, finding new strategies to expand, reviewing incentives, and leveraging their resources. This conference provided interagency dialogue that connected teams. I found this willingness to be open with their trials and tribulations to be refreshing and inspiring.

I have experienced this level of open communication and feedback within the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) setting of a hospital. In the ICU, we are all vested in each other’s growth and knowledge, for a person's well-being is at stake. The ability to conversate across status, professions, and agencies is an invaluable tool for knowledge-sharing and improvement strategies. It is reassuring to see these conversations occurring in other areas that can also affect a person so profoundly.

The collaborative courts aim to redirect someone's life to provide them with resources and the confidence to achieve goals participants never imagined. With this approach to our court system the judges, U.S. Attorneys, defense attorneys, probation officers, social workers, and all other professions involved in the court are able to capitalize on the strategic thinking created through collaboration. They are more efficient and effective when serving this population. In many ways, they are using a public health approach of getting closer to the people closest to the problem to be able to promote success in a specific population.

This seminar is a great example of how our justice system is changing and adapting, and the people within that system are working to understand the person, problem, and contributing factors that lead to a person’s involvement. They are taking that knowledge and actively trying to adapt the system to serve the people who need it most. As the collaborative courts continue to expand and gain traction throughout the nation, I hope to see more connections to other professions, such as public health, to round out the system and ensure participants are successful and supported after graduation from the collaborative courts.  

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