Questions for candidates: What’s your view on specialty courts?

October 4, 2018
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Geoff Hjerleid

Olmsted County has established a drug court, and efforts continue to create a treatment court catering to veterans.

Olmsted County Attorney candidates were asked for their views regarding the future of such specialty courts and the impact on they have on the local office.

Here are their responses:

Geoff Hjerleid

I support specialty courts when there is an established need and doing so represents stewardship of our public resources. Any specialty court necessarily will require additional county resources, which are scarce, so fiscal responsibility is paramount.

At this time, I do not support establishing a Veterans Court. It has not been sufficiently vetted by our county commissioners, and preliminary information indicates that it would serve only a handful of people.

Instead, I advocate for implementing “best practice” guides to address veterans’ court needs. These guides can efficiently provide the best individualized services to veterans and their families as they navigate all case types, including criminal, family, mental health and chemical dependency commitments, child support, housing, and general civil matters.

This approach is more fiscally sound at this time, and can best prepare all involved with services and options which most effectively provide the greatest assistance to veterans and their families.

Mark Ostrem

Treatment courts offer a unique opportunity and intervention to lead people living with substance use and mental health disorders out of the justice system.

Treatment courts are not a substitute for our traditional judicial system. They give prosecutors another opportunity to craft dispositions protecting public safety and offering rehabilitation to high risk defendants otherwise headed to prison.

Treatment courts are a priority for the judicial system. Collaborating with public safety partners, I developed a drug court for Olmsted County. We are on the verge of delivering a District Veterans Court. From an office perspective, these efforts are reflective of working smarter; neither demand additional resources beyond our ordinary work.

Other treatment court models exist. In considering additional models, we need to be thoughtful about other community resources needed and our ability to successfully engage participants.

For now, we have chosen to pursue two treatment courts that will bring significant benefits.

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