07 Dec Iris Eytan Interviewed by Colorado Politics in Article titled “Specialty Courts Work, But Fairness of Access Questioned”
December 7, 2020
District attorneys tout specialty courts and diversion programs, designed to rehabilitate rather than incarcerate, as a success story. The worth of these programs is a rare topic both Republican and Democratic district attorneys often agree on. In Colorado, specialty courts — also known as problem-solving courts — include drug courts, mental health courts, veterans’ treatment courts, DUI courts and family dependency and neglect courts.
By a few important measures, these specialized programs do work for the people who have access to them. According to a legislative report for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, about 79% of diversion program participants successfully completed their programs that year and only 5% committed new offenses during their diversion period.
Iris Eytan, a criminal defense attorney who helped develop Arapahoe County’s mental health court, was quoted saying she believes inequities in specialty court participation start before offers for participation are made, which are decisions intended to be made collaboratively between prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges.
Eytan said she believes inequities start with the types of charges deemed eligible for the courts, based on the premise that people of color are likely to face more serious charges for the same or similar offense as white people.
“You’re left with kind of a bland nature of cases that maybe shouldn’t even be crimes, honestly,” Eytan said. “You’re not seeing full representation of the population in problem solving courts.”
You may read the full article here.