San Francisco Superior Court - Collaborative Justice Program
Phone 415-551-3983
Summary See article

Collaborative justice courts, commonly referred to as problem-solving courts, promote defendant accountability by combining judicial supervision with rehabilitation services that are monitored by the court and focused on recovery. Using a non-adversarial approach, this practice emphasizes a coordinated effort among attorneys, law enforcement, community treatment and service agencies to address the complex social and behavioral health problems of repeat offenders. Judicial leadership plays a significant role in motivating compliance with treatment and is essential for ensuring positive relationships among the court and its partners. In the past 15 years, collaborative justice courts have emerged as an effective strategy to improve outcomes for victims, communities and defendants.

The San Francisco Superior Court has demonstrated its investment in problem solving courts by creating the Office of Collaborative Justice Courts. The overall goal is to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of collaborative justice programs as well as to increase public knowledge about problem-solving courts and to strengthen inter-organizational relations.

The following collaborative justice programs are currently operating in San Francisco Superior Court.


Behavioral Health Court (BHC) addresses the complex needs of mentally ill defendants with co-occurring substance use disorders by diverting them from the jail and into appropriate community treatment. An individualized treatment plan is developed which includes psychiatric rehabilitation services, medication management, supportive living arrangements, substance abuse treatment and intensive case management services. BHC received the 2008 Council on Mentally Ill Offenders Best Practices Award. BHC currently has 140 clients.

Community Justice Center (CJC) is one type of problem-solving court but with two unique differences: the CJC is accountable to community concerns through an open feedback process and the program focuses on a specific neighborhood. While many defendants are mandated to participate in treatment, the Court encourages community members to make use of the resources when they are in need, whether or not they are involved in the criminal justice system. The CJC also recognizes that communities, as well as individuals, can be victims of crimes. The program provides opportunities for offenders to give back to the communities they have harmed. From March-May 2009, the CJC has heard 580 cases in the courtroom, 140 of which were referred to the service center.

Drug Court is an intensive supervision case management program for non-violent offenders with substantial substance abuse problems. Offenders who are non-compliant with treatment may receive graduated sanctions – such as community service or jail time – to encourage adherence with treatment. Upon program completion, probation is terminated or charges may be dismissed. Drug court has its own treatment clinic located one block from the Hall of Justice and is supported by state funding through the Department of Public Health (DPH). Drug court currently has 250 clients.

Drug Diversion allows non-violent lower-level drug offenders substance abuse treatment. Charges can be dismissed upon successful completion of the program. This is a statutory program defined in Penal Code Section 1000. Drug Diversion currently has 450 clients.

Proposition 36 is a program for offenders charged with drug transportation or possession for personal use. Following sentencing probation is ordered pursuant to Penal Code Section 1210.1. Individuals are supervised by the Adult Probation Department and receive substance abuse treatment and case management coordinated through the Proposition 36 Case Management Program, which is funded by Department of Public Health (DPH). Ancillary services include vocational training, job placement and transitional housing. Upon successful completion of the program, probation is terminated and the case is dismissed. Proposition 36 currently has 230 clients.


Dependency Drug Court (DDC) is a court-supervised treatment and parenting program for people with children involved in the dependency system. In collaboration with the Department of Public Health and the Department of Human Services, DDC aims to increase the rate of reunification, reduce time in foster care and reduce the rate of re-entry into foster care after reunification by providing parents with intensive case management, substance abuse treatment, affordable and supportive housing, and other needed services, all within the context of frequent court monitoring. DDC currently serves 19 families.

Youth Family Violence Court (YFVC) is for youth brought before the court for violent conduct directed at a family member or in the context of a dating or intimate relationship. The mission of YFVC is to prevent continued violence and to enable youth to participate in positive family and intimate relationships that are free of physical and emotional violence. Services for youth include: court supervision and appearances, violence intervention programs, mental health services, parenting without violence services and child trauma services. There are 50 cases in YFVC.

YTEC/Youth Treatment and Education Center runs three programs for youth involved or formerly involved in the Juvenile Justice System. YTEC’s core program is the Principal Center Collaborative (PCC). PCC is a high school for youth on probation that integrates behavioral health services within the school day. PCC is a joint project with YTEC, the SF Unified School District, the Juvenile Probation Department, and the Department of Public Health. There are currently 50 youth in the program.

YTEC’s other programs include a seven-week substance abuse prevention diversion program for first time offenders as well as an aftercare and leadership development program for PCC graduates. Youth completing the terms of their probation and ageing out of the foster care system are also able to receive aftercare assistance such as work experience, support for college admissions, vocational training, life skills, relapse prevention, mental health services and leadership development.


Back on Track is a program for young adults arrested for low-level narcotics sales. The program is a partnership between the District Attorney’s Office and Goodwill Industries. The program includes intensive case management and supervision. All participants are required to complete community service work, attend school, obtain employment, and actively participate in an intensive mentoring program. Back on Track currently has between 62-70 clients.

Self-Represented Litigant Calendar hears cases for parents in the family law system who may have multiple legal matters. At calendar call, parties are matched with an appropriate resource to assist them in resolving their case(s). Available resources include: mediators, self-help attorneys, legal staff and a case manager. The goal is for litigants to leave their hearing with final judgment orders in hand.

The Truancy Court is a specialty calendar aimed at reducing the rate of truancy in elementary school children. Rather than charging minors for a status offense in the Juvenile Delinquency system, the parents of the truants are charged with an infraction for a first offense. Repeat offenders can be charged with a misdemeanor. The goal of the calendar is not to punish the parents but to refer them to programs that will assist them with addressing their own problems so they can keep their children on track. The calendar is a partnership among the Superior Court, District Attorney, the Human Services Agency and the Board of Education.

Zero to Three is a collaborative program for infants and toddlers who have been maltreated. Led by the Superior Court, the program partners with child development specialists to create teams of child welfare and health professionals, child advocates and community leaders to provide services to abused and neglected children age 3 or younger who are involved in a family reunification case.

For more information about our programs, contact Lisa Lightman, Director, Office of Collaborative Justice Programs at 415-551-3983 or Visit our website at [] and our blog at [].

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