34 Indiana counties have established specialized court programs aimed at giving special help to defendants at high risk of getting in trouble again.

54 Indiana courts come under a broad heading of “problem-solving courts” — courts with a focus on intensive and personalized counseling and treatment, rather than punishment. Anyone charged with a crime answers a questionnaire linked to a formula to determine who the highest risks are, based on factors such as substance abuse, family members who have had brushes with the law, or criminal attitudes — for instance, rationalizing that stealing is okay. The first problem-solving courts in Indiana were established in 1996, targeting drug offenders.

Drug courts remain by far the most common specialized court, but some local judges have set up courts targeting juveniles, the mentally ill, or veterans. A 2007 study of drug courts found defendants assigned to the programs have dramatically lower rates of repeat offenses — even if they drop out of the program.

Indiana Judicial Center Director of Court Services Mary Kay Hudson says even defendents who start a counseling-and-treatment program and don’t finish are less likely to reoffend than those who don’t enter a program at all.