Therapeutic Jurisprudence in Regional Areas

A significant proportion of the literature on the application of therapeutic jurisprudence in the court system concerns the work of problem-solving courts. Typically they have been established in large urban areas that have treatment and community resources to support their operation. They have dedicated judicial officers who sit in the court on either a fulltime or part time basis.

Regional areas are often limited in terms of rehabilitation programs available. Regional magistrates in Australia exercise diverse jurisdiction and typically have extensive circuit work. They may have large workloads that impede their ability to introduce creative new court programs such as those based on therapeutic jurisprudence. Due to the remoteness of the localities in which they work, regional magistrates may have limited access to professional support in applying therapeutic principles.

Despite these challenges, regional magistrates have recognised the potential benefits of using therapeutic jurisprudence in their courts and have begun to apply its principles. In 2004, the Western Australian country magistrates unanimously resolved to apply therapeutic jurisprudence in their courts. Australian magistrates working in collaboration with local communities and drawing on local resources have established a number of projects in regional areas. The initiatives include Indigenous sentencing courts and the Geraldton Alternative Sentencing Regime, a 'hybrid' problem-solving court style program that has dealt with a broad range of offending related problems, including illicit drug problems, alcohol problems, solvent abuse, gambling, stress and domestic violence.

Regional courts can adapt therapeutic principles according to the needs of their communities and the other demands of their courts. They have the unique opportunity of being able to apply therapeutic jurisprudence across multiple jurisdictions.