Director of Communications & Online Media
National Center for State Courts
National research shows support for virtual court hearings, services in diversion programs
Williamsburg, Va., February 2, 2022 – Virtual hearings and services in drug courts and other court-led diversion programs should continue, according to new national research released by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and Rulo Strategies.
Developed in partnership with senior justice and behavioral health researcher Bradley Ray, Ph.D., the two studies, Adoption of Virtual Services in Judicially Led Diversion Programs: Final Findings and Virtual Services in Judicially Led Diversion Programs: Participant Findings and examine opinions about barriers and benefits of virtual court hearings, team meetings, treatment and community supervision since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The surveys polled both practitioners and participants. While many respondents support the use of virtual hearings and services, opinions vary between the groups on the extent to which virtual interactions should continue – 100% virtual, or a blend of virtual and in-person interactions. Program participants generally support virtual services across the board, while practitioners feel that some court events are more effective in-person.
Survey findings from 891 practitioner respondents – including judges, court coordinators, treatment providers, case managers and community supervision officers – provide insight from 518 individual court programs across the country in the Adoption of Virtual Services in Judicially Led Diversion Programs: Final Findings.
Key findings from the court community includes:
- A majority of respondents give higher ratings to the quality of information exchanged, the judge's ability to form connections, and the participant's willingness to talk when court hearings were held in person. Additionally, most treatment respondents reported more positive ratings related to the facilitators' ability to build rapport, the participant’s engagement in treatment, and the participant’s willingness to talk in group when treatment groups were held in person compared to virtual treatment groups.
- Nearly half (47%) of the respondents report strong support for continuing virtual hearings, with many respondents preferring a hybrid approach. Nearly half of the treatment staff indicate strong support for continuing virtual treatment.
Responses from 1,356 participants in 121 court-led diversion programs in 27 states formed the basis for the second report, Virtual Services in Judicially Led Diversion Programs: Participant Findings.
Participant feedback includes:
- Nearly three-quarters of the respondents prefer that court remain virtual 100% of the time or be offered as a mix of virtual and in-person. Respondents who had only experienced virtual treatment give the most positive ratings of their treatment experience, while those who transitioned from in-person treatment to virtual rate their experience with virtual treatment as more positive than their experience with in-person treatment.
- Most participants indicate they had the resources needed to participate in services virtually and noted various benefits to participating in court and treatment virtually, including reduced barriers (e.g., transportation, time off from work), reduced health risks, reduced anxiety, and increased comfort with court proceedings and treatment.
The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit court organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation’s state courts.
National Center for State Courts, 300 Newport Avenue, Williamsburg, VA 23185-4147