Texas bill would create statewide standards for specialty courts - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Texas bill would create statewide standards for specialty courts

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Amarillo, TX - Some Texas courts may soon have to meet higher standards to qualify for state funding.

Specialty courts, like family courts and drug courts, are generally known as cheaper and more effective alternatives to incarceration.  Now a new proposal calls on those courts to prove their worth in state funding.

Senate Bill 462, authored by Senator Joan Huffman of Houston, would create a statewide oversight committee to recommend standards for the state's specialty courts.  And with Texas drug courts seeing enormous growth in the last decade, our own local drug court says standardization isn't always a bad thing.

"The more drug courts there are, the more need there is for some standardization, some oversight," says 181st District Judge John Board, "and I think that bill will do that, and I'm certainly not opposed to it; I think it's a good development."

Drug courts are already subject to federal standards, and our own local drug court is evaluated by Dr. Dave Rausch, a political science professor at West Texas A&M University.

"What we do is we look to see how many people do they have in drug court, what the process is, is it fair?," says Rausch. "Mostly we're trying to determine for the amount of money the federal government gives the drug court, what sort of results do they get?"

Under the current agreement, the court system specifies what it wants evaluated in order to pinpoint any problem areas.

"They know better what they want to know about," explains Rausch.  "You know, 'What do you want to know about what your court is doing?' And at the state level, someone should be asking, 'What does the state need to know about all the courts?'"

Under the proposal, each court would be held accountable to a minimum level of performance and would have to adhere to approved methods. 

Governor Rick Perry has voiced his support for the bill, which is currently under consideration in the House Judiciary Committee.

If you'd like to see an analysis of the bill, follow the links attached to this story.