Resource: The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has a bench card on what it means to be a trauma-informed judge. Judicial officers often rely on bench cards, which are very brief summaries of law or recommended best practices that they literally keep in the courtroom (i.e., “on the bench”).
The court plays a significant role in the criminal justice process as the venue where traffickers are tried and where victims can seek justice and find resolution, whether they encounter the court system as victim-witnesses or victim-defendants. Through trauma-informed procedures, courts can enhance the victim’s belief in procedural justice, decreasing the potentially negative experiences they may have in court, regardless of the outcome of the case. If the courts are to be effective in their delivery of fairness and justice, they need to be aware of the underlying trauma of many individuals with whom they will interact within their courts. Very often, individuals in cases involving domestic violence or abuse, civil or criminal child abuse, truancy, and juvenile and adult crimes all have one common trait—their own undiagnosed and untreated trauma.
In an effort to create a trauma-informed court, task forces can consider either approaching an individual courtroom or the chief judicial officer of the jurisdiction. In larger jurisdictions, a small number of judicial officers might preside over the cases most likely to involve trauma-effected individuals; in smaller jurisdictions, only one or two presiding judicial officers may handle all case types.
Additional recommendations for creating a trauma-informed courtroom include the following:
For additional information, visit Resources 6.3.