Alaska’s therapeutic courts

September is set aside as Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Recovery Month, and this month, Justice Alaska offers a round-up and window into the state’s therapeutic courts.

What is a therapeutic court? Is it the “easy way out” of accountability?

Proponents argue just the opposite. Anchorage District Attorney Rick Allen told The Frontiersmen in a story about the new Palmer therapeutic court this summer, “People should understand, this is the hard route.” In fact, he said, it’s more challenging than going to jail. Participants are “under a microscope” and punished to make lasting change instead of just serving their time.

Over a year to 18 months, the program requires participants to confront substance abuse issues. They must provide weekly random urine analysis, get jobs, and proceed through drug and alcohol counseling. The goal for participants is to successfully rejoin society.

Alaska has fourteen therapeutic courts statewide.  Eight of these courts accept cases in which there is a clear link between crimes committed and addiction; three work primarily with defendants with mental health issues; two work with families involved with Child in Need of Aid cases; and the Anchorage Veterans Court accepts participants who require behavioral health services.

Learn more about how these courts work, how they differ from just doing jail time. Join us with your questions and comments.

Thanks for listening!




  • Judge Cathy Easter, therapeutic court judge
  • Jennifer Fredericks, project coordinator, Anchorage Wellness Court
  • Doreen Schenkenberger, an alumna of one of the therapeutic courts



  • Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (2:00 – 3:00pm)
  • Send e-mail to before, during or after the live broadcast (e-mails may be read on air)
  • Post your comment or question below (comments may be read on air)
  • LIVE: Monday, September 17, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.
  • REPEAT: Monday, September 17, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.