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Monday 11th of November 2019

Press Room

Trauma-informed Courts: How to Create One and Why You Should

Thursday 18th of July 2019
Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
News

Modern courtrooms function more like emergency rooms than traditional courtrooms. The sound of the gavel replaces the siren. Clerks, judges and attorneys are the first responders while the podium becomes the center for the differential diagnosis and treatment.

More than ever before, courts are inheriting and being asked to resolve fundamental societal issues that bring people into contact with the legal system. These issues are both broad and deep and ultimately are embedded in the impact of the lifetime trauma children and adults experience.

Trauma has always shown up in the courtroom. It shows up in the belligerent parent, the withdrawn defendant and the aggressive juvenile. More recently, the true breadth of the impact of trauma in the courts is being measured. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) describes trauma as the psychological response to violence or adverse events when they are experienced as physically or emotionally harmful/threatening and has lasting adverse effects on functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

Several studies have focused on the prevalence of trauma in those entering a courtroom. One study, the Targeted Capacity Expansion (TCE) for Jail Diversion Study, found 96% of women in jail diversion programs reported a lifetime of trauma and 89% of men. Perhaps more surprising is 74% of women and 86% of men reported current trauma. A study of justice-involved juveniles in Florida found they were more likely to have experienced trauma and multiple forms of trauma than non-justice-involved juveniles. We must start assuming every person walking through the courtroom door has experienced some trauma. Our obligation as court professionals is to be trauma-informed in our interactions, environment and procedures.

Tough but compassionate

We want to share with you some practical and easy ideas about how to create a trauma-informed courtroom.

trauma-informed: Judge Ann Gail Meinster (headshot), presiding juvenile judge in the First Judicial District in Colorado, smiling woman with short red hair in white turtleneck, black judicial robesI am a juvenile judge in a metro Colorado jurisdiction. All the cases I am privileged to handle involve children, youth and families. Whenever Brenidy and I present on the trauma-informed courtroom issue, I share my philosophy with the audience that the people who walk through my courtroom doors have been beat up by life, they don’t need me to beat them up more.

 

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  • International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation

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  • Head Office: Rue Mercelis, nº 50. 1050. Brussels. Belgium

    Phone: 00 32 262 988 90. Fax: 00 32 262 988 99. oijj@oijj.org

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