New Report Finds Effectiveness of Drug Courts

New federal research is giving momentum to the call for reduced penalties and more rehabilitation for drug offenders – including juveniles – across the nation. A study funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) found that alternatives to handling drug cases, such as specialized courts that usher more people into rehab, can sharply drop recidivism rates, scale back on overall crime and produce deep cost cuts in an overwhelmed criminal justice system. The report comes as the nation is in somewhat of a split over how best to handle many criminal cases, including drug offenses. As Massachusetts considers a crackdown on repeat violent offenders, the position by many lawmakers has been to ease drug penalties. In Missouri, legislators passed a bill to create more parity in sentencing for powdered and crack cocaine offenses.

Benjamin Chambers: Juvenile Drug Courts – There ARE Practice Guidelines

Some of you may have heard this disturbing account of a drug court in Glynn County, Georiga, aired recently on “This American Life.” Usually, a drug court may take a year, possible two years, to complete.  For 24-year-old Lindsey Dills, who was 18 when she entered the Glynn County juvenile drug court, she won’t be done with it until 10-1/2 years later, counting time behind bars and probation. Now, the show makes it clear that this particular Georgia drug court is commonly thought to be run counter to generally-accepted principles of drug court. But I thought it would be a good time to mention the so-called : “16 strategies” for juvenile drug courts.  (Follow the link for a monograph from the Department of Justice, explaining the details.)

Here they are:

Strategy 1: Collaborative Planning
Strategy 2: Teamwork
Strategy 3: Clearly Defined Target Population and Eligibility Criteria
Strategy 4: Judicial Involvement and Supervision
Strategy 5: Monitoring and Evaluation
Strategy 6: Community Partnerships
Strategy 7: Comprehensive Treatment Planning
Strategy 8: Developmentally Appropriate Services
Strategy 9: Gender-Appropriate Services
Strategy 10: Cultural Competence
Strategy 11: Focus on Strengths
Strategy 12: Family Engagement Strategy 13: Educational Linkages
Strategy 14: Drug Testing
Strategy 15: Goal-Oriented Incentives and Sanctions
Strategy 16: Confidentiality

The above story is reprinted with permission from Reclaiming Futures, a national initiative working to improve alcohol and drug treatment outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system.