Access Differential: Comparing Problem-solving Courts and Probation

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Lindsay Smith
Faye S. Taxman


Since their inception in 1989, PSCs offer a therapeutic justice intervention for individuals with non-violent offense charges/convictions in an attempt to address the underlying social issues that resulted in an initial arrest. Prior research points out that Black and Hispanic/Latinx people tend to be underserved in PSCs compared to incarceration and probation populations (Marlowe, Hardin, & Fox, 2016). The question is whether there are differences in the population served by probation and PSCs, as both are initial sentence alternatives to incarceration, but PSCs are considered to be more rehabilitative. This commentary presents an explorative comparison of the demographic characteristics (i.e., gender, race, ethnicity) of clients participating in either probation or PSCs in 2019. We use a survey of 849 problem-solving court coordinators (Faragó et al., under review) and a survey of 384 probation agencies from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (Oudekerk & Kaeble, 2021) to compare client demographic information they reported in the surveys. This comparison identifies discrepancies in the diversity of clients on probation compared to PSCs; we find that more men and Black individuals are sentenced to probation, whereas more women and white individuals agree to participate in PSC programs.


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How to Cite
Lindsay Smith, & Faye S. Taxman. (2022). Access Differential: Comparing Problem-solving Courts and Probation. Drug Court Review, 12–21.
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Author Biographies

Lindsay Smith, George Mason University

Lindsay Smith completed her master’s degree in Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University. As a doctoral student in Criminology, Law and Society, she works as a graduate research assistant for the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence!. Lindsay researches correctional issues with an emphasis on reintegration success, gender-based violence, and social inequalities.

Faye S. Taxman, George Mason University

Dr. Faye S. Taxman is a Professor of Policy and Government at George Mason University. Her work focuses on the development of seamless systems-of-care models that link the criminal justice system with other health and other service delivery systems, reengineering probation and parole supervision services, and implementation science. She has conducted experiments to examine different processes to improve treatment access and retention, assess new models of probation supervision consistent with RNR frameworks, and develop and test new interventions.