center for sustainable justice


Therapeutic Jurisprudence

Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ) is "the study of the role of the law as a therapeutic agent"[1], which is a scientific movement[2] that examines the impact of laws and legal procedures on the welfare of those that come into contact with it. Therapeutic Jurisprudence was established in the United States during the 80s from criminology. Thanks in part to Therapeutic Jurisprudence collaboration and the development of ’Problem Solving Courts’ in the justice system in the United States that was developed at roughly the same time, Therapeutic Jurisprudence developed into a strong network of academics and practitioners where publications and information are shared. Therapeutic Jurisprudence currently includes the entire legal field, but it is most developed in the areas of criminal law, criminology and family and juvenile law. An excellent classified bibliography of sources from around the world is currently available online[3]. Conferences are held every two years and more and more universities have Therapeutic Jurisprudence study programs available.
As this flow essentially examines the influence of the legal system on the ecosystems of the parties and of stakeholders in a wider context literature and studies collected in this movement are of great importance in supporting the development of sustainable justice.

Therapeutic Jurisprudence is in use far beyond the United States. In Australia Therapeutic Jurisprudence has become so important that knowledge and experience with Therapeutic Jurisprudence have become requirements for becoming eligible for important court posts. The Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration has established a Therapeutic Jurisprudence Clearinghouse, which is an informative website where documentation related to Therapeutic Jurisprudence can be found[4]. In 2009 Australian lawyers published a thorough inventory of the global developments in the field of non-adversarial justice (a justice system that is based on cooperation instead of a legal battle). With an extensive arsenal of references they discuss subjects such as Therapeutic Jurisprudence, Restorative Justice, ADR, Problem Solving Courts and Indigenous Sentencing Courts, the implications of non-adversarial justice for the judiciary and training for the legal profession[5].

[1]Wexler, David B., Reflections on the Scope of Therapeutic Jurisprudence,published in Psychology, Public Policy & Law 220, 1995, republished in Brooks, Susan L. and Madden, Robert G. 2010, Relationship-Centered Lawyering - Social Science Theory for Transforming Legal Practice, Carolina Academic Press, Durham NC, USA, p. 20.

13 Therapeutic Jurisprudence is described in Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed., West Group, 2009) as "The study of the effects of law and the legal system on the behavior, emotions, and mental health of people: esp, a multidisciplinary examination of how law and mental health interact. This discipline originated in the late 1980s as an academic approach to mental health law."

[3]The Therapeutic Jurisprudence network website is available at www.therapeuticjurisprudence.orgor www.law.arizona.edu/depts/upr-intj.

[4]The Therapeutic Jurisprudence Clearinghousecan be reached through the website of the Australasian Institute for Judicial Administration: www.aija.org.au.

[5]King, Freiberg, Batagol and Hyams 2009. Non-Adversarial Justice, Federation Press, Sydney NSW, Australia,  a handbook on non-adversarial justice with extensive source and references.

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