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Building the Research Base: An Evaluation Blueprint for Community Courts

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2020
24 pages

In order to assist in developing an evidence-based framework for the community-court model, this paper presents a blueprint that can guide future community-court evaluations.


For about 30 years, community courts have provided a localized, flexible approach to addressing crime and disorder in a community. They have functioned in centralized courthouses, neighborhood-based satellite courts, local libraries, community centers, and other locations. Some community courts focus on criminal cases, and others include non-criminal violations, juvenile cases, housing matters, and other types of conflict. This variability in cases processed and court procedures has made community courts difficult to evaluate, and there is a lack of research on the features of the community court model. In assisting the development of an evidence-based framework for the community court model, this paper presents a blueprint to guide future community court evaluation. First, It discusses the evolution of community courts and describes the research challenges they present. This is followed by the identification and discussion of the following seven key principles identified in community justice: 1) individualized justice, 2) community engagement, 3) alternative outcomes, 4) client accountability, 5) system accountability, 6) enhanced information, and 7) collaboration. The blueprint concludes with strategies for isolating and testing the impact of these key principles that characterize community courts. This blueprint was developed by a national group of researchers and experts in community courts and related fields. They met to discuss the state of community courts in the 21 st century. The intent is that the essential features of the community court identified in the blueprint will be measured consistently across the model’s local variations. This will assist community courts in adopting evidence-based practices, ensuring that they are a sustainable, impactful approach to local problems. 

Date Published: October 1, 2020