Examining the impact of case management in Vancouver's downtown community court: A Quasi-experimental design

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Background: Problem solving courts (PSC) have been implemented internationally, with a common objective to prevent reoffending by addressing criminogenic needs and strengthening social determinants of health. There has been no empirical research on the effectiveness of community courts, which are a form of PSC designed to harness community resources and inter-disciplinary expertise to reduce recidivism in a geographic catchment area. Method: We used the propensity score matching method to examine the effectiveness of Vancouver's Downtown Community Court (DCC). We focused on the subset of DCC participants who were identified as having the highest criminogenic risk and were assigned to a case management team (CMT). A comparison group was derived using one-to-one matching on a large array variables including static and dynamic criminogenic factors, geography, and time. Reductions in offences (one year pre minus one year post) were compared between CMT and comparison groups. Results: Compared to other DCC offenders, those triaged to CMT (9.5% of the DCC population) had significantly higher levels of healthcare, social service use, and justice system involvement over the ten years prior to the index offence. Compared to matched offenders who received traditional court outcomes, those assigned to CMT (n = 249) exhibited significantly greater reductions in overall offending (p<0.001), primarily comprised of significant reductions in property offences (p<0.001). Conclusions: Our findings indicate that CMT achieved significantly greater reductions in recidivism than traditional court among offenders with complex needs and high numbers of previous offences. Limitations of this research include a non-experimental design and one year follow up. Strengths include a robust matching process and extensive client level data spanning multiple sectors. Further research is needed to replicate the observed outcomes, to investigate the extension of community courts to settings with divergent offender needs and local resources, and to estimate potential cost avoidance attributable to this intervention. © 2014 Somers et al.




Somers, J. M., Moniruzzaman, A., Rezansoff, S. N., & Patterson, M. (2014). Examining the impact of case management in Vancouver’s downtown community court: A Quasi-experimental design. PLoS ONE, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0090708

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