Mission and Goals
Sex Offense Courts promote justice by providing a comprehensive approach to case resolution, increasing sex offender accountability, enhancing community safety while protecting the rights of defendants. The purpose and function of Sex Offense Courts is to promote best practices in the resolution of sex offense cases and to facilitate and enhance coordination and communication among relevant stakeholders.
The Sex Offense Court model follows a set of key principles that have emerged based upon national research on sex offender management, best practices and an analysis of the court system’s current methods of addressing sex offense cases. *
These key components are:
Dedicated Court Part | Jurisdiction | Case Identification | Judicial Monitoring & Offender Accountability| Community Supervision | Training | Stakeholder & Community Resources | Victim Services | Technical Assistance | Evaluation
A dedicated judge and court part handle sex offense cases directly from identification through disposition.
Sex Offense Court jurisdiction should include at a minimum all cases where a felony sex offense registrable under the Sex Offender Registration Act ("SORA") is charged. Domestic violence sexual assaults, however, remain within the jurisdiction of domestic violence courts. During the planning process, each Sex Offense Court will conduct a caseload analysis to determine the penal law charges that will be included in the court.
Sex Offense Courts should develop protocols to identify eligible cases. This process can be accomplished by working with the stakeholders, such as the District Attorney’s Offices and local law enforcement agencies, at the earliest possible stage in the court process.
Judicial monitoring of offenders in criminal cases is a cornerstone of the Sex Offense Court model. Rapid calendaring for sex offenders on probation, including those in need of a modification of conditions, should be part of a Sex Offense Court’s protocol. This promotes accountability and permits the court to adjust conditions of probation as necessary.
Offenders’ compliance or noncompliance with court mandates should be immediately communicated to the judge in order to facilitate regular and intensive judicial oversight.
Sex Offense Courts should respond swiftly to violations of conditions of probation as well as violations of the Sex Offender Registration Act.
Sex Offense Courts should work with probation and parole agencies to define their active participation in these courts. Sex offense courts should promote the use of pre-sentence investigation ("PSI") reports to provide critical information and set the framework for community supervision and should work with local probation departments to encourage the development of specially trained probation officers.
Special sex offender conditions, as part of a sentence of probation, are critical to the effective management of sex offenders in the community. The court should have available as tools sex offender treatment programs and the use of polygraph testing in order to assist the offender in reducing risk-taking behaviors that can lead to re-offending.
Training and education for judges and non-judicial personnel in Sex Offense Courts is an integral part of the court’s ability to handle complex sexual offenses in a consistent and comprehensive manner. Intensive training on issues related to sexually offending behaviors should be provided to the judges and court staff in order to keep all personnel abreast of the latest research and best practices in the field.
Sex Offense Courts depend on successful interaction with stakeholders. Judicial monitoring and community supervision are more effective when the court, probation department, district attorney, defense attorneys and victim service agencies understand each other’s role. Accordingly, Sex Offense Courts should become familiar with the whole range of available services in their county, hold regular stakeholder meetings both during the planning process and post-implementation, and, where feasible, collaborate with stakeholders on training programs and other projects.
Each Sex Offense Court should work with local service providers to facilitate victims' access to child abuse and sexual assault advocates who can provide counseling and access to a multitude of other social services.
Sex Offense Courts are assigned a technical assistance team to guide them through planning both pre and post-implementation. Each Sex Offense Court creates a planning document that outlines procedures that conform to the mission statement and key principles.
Sex Offense Courts track cases and collect data by using the Sex Offense Court Application, a database and case management tool developed by the Unified Court System. These procedures should allow for evaluation of the Sex Offense Courts.
* The Sex Offense Court model draws on the Center for Sex Offender Management’s most current knowledge and effective practices for managing sex offenders. The Center for Sex Offender Management ("CSOM") is a national project that seeks to support jurisdictions in the effective management of sex offenders through the latest research and recommended emerging practices. CSOM was established in 1997 and is sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs ("OJP"), U.S. Department of Justice, in collaboration with the National Institute of Corrections, State Justice Institute, and the American Probation and Parole Association. CSOM is administered through a cooperative agreement between OJP and the Center for Effective Public Policy.