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Are Drug Courts a Solution to the Drug Problem?

Document date: April 05, 2005
Released online: April 05, 2005

ROBERT D. REISCHAUER, Urban Institute: I'm Bob Reischauer. I'm the president of the Urban Institute and I want to welcome you all to this First Tuesday forum. The First Tuesdays are occasions in which the Urban Institute invites a knowledgeable audience and people with different perspectives to discuss issues that have a bearing on the type of research that we're doing here. And we are very fortunate today to have a very particularly distinguished panel, and I will introduce them in the order in which they are going to speak.

We are going to start with Anita Josey-Herring, who is an associate judge of the District of Columbia's Superior Court and the deputy presiding judge of the family court. She is a faculty member of the National Drug Court Institute, the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, and Harvard Law School's Trial Advocacy Workshop, and in 1994 was named the deputy director of the District of Columbia's Public Defender System; so she clearly has both a lot of experience and an interesting perspective.

She will be followed by John Roman, who is a senior research associate here at the Urban Institute in the Justice Policy Center, where his research has focused on evaluations of innovative crime control policies and programs. He is also the coeditor of Juvenile Drug Courts and Teen Substance Abuse, which was published by the Urban Institute Press.

John will be followed by Marcia Lee, who is the senior adviser for drug policy and research for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime. She is a member of the Democratic staff and she is also the staff director of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. Marcia is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute and has worked at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

Marcia will be followed by Peter Reuter, who is a professor at the School of Public Policy and a member of the Department of Criminology at the University of Maryland. Peter is also on the economics staff of RAND, where he both founded and directed the Drug Policy Research Center in 1989. I think he directed it to the mid-1990s and did a lot of path-breaking work in these areas. He is the author of a number of books including Disorganized Crime: The Economics of the Visible Hand. He is also a member of the National Research Council Committee on Law and Justice and numerous other things.

To moderate the discussion and also introduce the topics, we're fortunate to have Greg Berman, who was the founder of the Center for Court Innovation, which is a think tank that helps state courts reduce crime and aid victims. He previously served as the lead planner for the Red Hook Community Justice Center, which was one of the nation's first multijurisdictional community courts. Greg is the coauthor of Good Courts: The Case for Problem-Solving Justice, which is a forthcoming volume.

So with that, let me turn it over to you, Greg, and I look forward to the discussion.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Thank you, Bob. Can everybody hear me okay?

It's a delight to be here, particularly on such a beautiful day. I was just complaining that I suffer from seasonal affective disorder so I'm particularly happy to be here today because it's been such a long, cold winter.

My job is to explain a little bit about the structure of today's conversation and also offer a little bit of context before we begin. In terms of structure, what we want to do is basically start with drug courts 101, answering some fairly basic questions: What are drug courts? How do they operate? What do they achieve? How do they depart from business as usual in the courts? And then very quickly move to what I might call drug courts 202, which is looking at the politics of drug-court reform on the Hill and situating the drug-court movement within kind of large policy trends in this country.

By way of context, I wanted to just very briefly highlight three realities about American courts. The first one probably goes without saying, but I think it's always important to underline, and that is that the television is misleading. And by this I mean that if your exposure to American state courts was confined to following the latest celebrity trial on TV or watching a procedural drama like "Law and Order," I think one would come away with a very inaccurate view of the courts. I think you would come away with the view that our courts were largely devoted to hard-fought, contested, adversarial trials involving very serious criminal matters.

As John Roman often says, this just isn't so. The reality in our course is that 9 out of every 10 cases are settled by plea bargain rather than trial. The reality, thankfully, from my perspective, is that the courts are not in 2005 flooded with cases involving serious criminals but by and large are dominated by cases involving nonviolent criminals and offenders and defendants who bring with them to the table a set of very serious social problems: drug addition, mental illness, family dysfunction, and the like. And so the reality in the courts is not complicated legal matters but cases involving individuals with complicated lives.

Just to give you a snapshot from where I'm from in New York City, over the course of the 1990s, there was a tremendous explosion in case load in the state court system. To take just a snapshot of misdemeanor offenses—misdemeanor offenses in New York City—misdemeanor cases went up 85 percent over the course of the 1990s. Meanwhile, the number of criminal court judges remained basically flat.

And so what you have is a very serious mismatch between supply and demand for judicial attention. And what this creates is enormous pressure on the folks that staff the system (judges and attorneys) to process as many cases as quickly as they possibly can. And I think this leads to a lot of internal frustration among judges and attorneys who feel like they have become case processors working in a case-processing factory. And it also creates frustration outside the system among citizens and observers and this is where you get this perception that the courts have become a set of revolving doors kind of spinning out of control.

Which leads me to the second reality that I want to underline, which is that as is often the case, crisis leads to innovation. The past 15 years have been a time of remarkable innovation and some might say unprecedented innovation within American state courts. All across the country in red states and blue, we have seen entrepreneurial judges and attorneys creating specialized courts—drug courts, community courts, mental health courts, domestic violence courts --trying to tackle some of these difficult problems coming into the courthouse doors. These courts are addressing problems ranging from very serious cases—assault cases involving domestic violence --to the most minor cases that ever come into American courts, the so-called quality-of-life offenses.

But what I think all of these courts have in common is this idea that going to court shouldn't be a series of empty procedural gestures—that what going to court should be about is trying to solve the underlying problems, first and foremost of victims, of defendants, and also of crime-plagued communities. Drug courts are by far the most popular, these models of problem-solving courts. You'll hear more from Judge Josey-Herring about what the model looks like. But basically, drug courts link addicted offenders to community-based treatment in lieu of incarceration. Defendants agree to submit to the urine test and regular judicial monitoring. And if they successfully complete treatment, the charges against them are typically reduced and they can avoid jail or prison terms.

This message—which I think is fairly commonsensical—of combining punishment and help has found an audience across the political spectrum, which leads me to my third reality. And reality number three is that problem-solving courts, with drug courts being the most prominent example, are attempting now to move from the margins and into the mainstream of thinking about criminal court in this country. There are more than 2,000 problem-solving courts in this country according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Every state has at least one. The American Bar Association has endorsed problem-solving justice, as has the Conference of Chief Justices, hardly fringe organizations I might add. And I think that this represents just the tip of the iceberg.

At the risk of engaging in cliché, in preparation for today, I did a Google search for "drug court," and I just wanted to share a few things that I found. The first was a headline from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: "Verdict Is In: Drug Courts Save Lives, Taxpayer Dollars." The second is from the Miami Herald: "Drug Court Recidivism Rate Praised by Drug Czar." I found an article by Doug Marlow, who is a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, and he wrote, "More research has been published on the effects of drug courts than on virtually all other interventions for drug-abusing offenders combined. Taken together, the results of experimental studies proved the efficacy of drug courts beyond doubt."

I found an op-ed in the New York Times by Judge Donald Lay, a federal judge, who said, "Given the success of drug courts in the states, the federal government should study how to modify its sentencing to incorporate elements of the drug-court model and to access the effectiveness of community-based alternatives to imprisonment for nonviolent federal drug felons."

So as I think these snapshots attest, I think that the drug courts can be credited with introducing a measure of hope into the field of criminal justice, which as many of you know, I think for more than a generation has been burdened with this crushing sense that nothing works, that it's impossible to change the behavior of offenders. And I think that more and more the operative questions that are engaging the field are the questions of: What comes next? Where is the future for drug courts? Can you go to scale with drug courts? Can you take some of the principals and practices that have proven successful in drug courts and take them to the larger criminal justice system, to the larger court system? And it's my hope that we'll touch on these questions over the course of the day, as well as others.

So with that, let me take a step back and pass it to Judge Josey-Herring.

JUDGE ANITA JOSEY-HERRING, District of Columbia Superior Court: Thank you very much. Good afternoon and it's wonderful to have a full house on such a nice day, which is hard to come by here in the District, but hopefully we turned a corner and are really having spring occur.

The advent of crack cocaine and later methamphetamines critically changed our legal and social landscape in the United States and really exacerbated problems that are facing our communities. In the late 1980s, caseloads in criminal and family courts escalated as drugs spread throughout the nation. As a result, drug users and dealers, and others affected by this epidemic became a constant and part of the growing judicial dockets, overcrowded jails, and overburdened child welfare system.

Partly in response to this new reality, in 1989, Judge Stanley Goldstein introduced the first drug court in Dade County Florida. By then it was clear that the traditional manner of adjudicating and penalizing offenders, which led to a revolving-door practice that was just referred to, was ineffective to address a myriad of issues presented by the drug crisis. Concerned judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, members of the defense bar, community leaders, and others set out to tackle this tremendous challenge. Plus, the justice system's response was retooled to utilize treatment as a means of stemming the tide of substance abuse and recidivism along with the traditional justice responses designed to hold defendants and offenders accountable.

Treatment also became a viable option in the war against drugs and recognition that compulsion to use and abuse drugs is not simply a function of disobedience or of an offender's willful defiance to obeying the law and court order, but is also linked to a psychological and physiological craving like unto the disease model.

There are several types of drug courts which provide treatment to and supervision of offenders and I just want to highlight a couple or just a few of them today. This is not an exclusive list. There are adult drug courts, which are specialized dockets in criminal courts established to reduce recidivism and substance abuse among nonviolent substance-abusing defendants. There are juvenile drug courts, which are specialized dockets within the juvenile court, and they involve delinquency matters of nonviolent offenders and status offenders with substance abuse and alcohol problems. And there are family treatment courts or family dependency treatment courts, which are selected neglect-and-abuse cases, otherwise known as dependency cases, on family court dockets for parental substance abuse as a primary factor. The judge, treatment personnel and child protection agency officials, and others work together to help parents in these situations achieve sobriety with the goal of reuniting families.

The drug court model generally entails the following components and some of them are mentioned: strong judicial leadership and oversight of the program and the participants in the program; early identification of individuals fitting the target population and meeting the eligibility criteria established typically by an implementation team in the planning phase before the drug court actually becomes operational; and an assembly of multidisciplinary team members who work collaboratively to holistically address the participant's needs. And this really requires more than judges are used to doing but the fact is people come into the court system with a number of social problems that can't really be addressed by typically sentencing them because they come back into the system over and over again.

Prompt and predictable court sanctions are another component of drug courts that address participant noncompliance. And participants are held accountable very close in time to any infraction, any dirty urine, any failure to attend a counseling session, or any requirement that has been set out by the court. Drug courts also have a component where the judge and the team encourages the participant in their quest toward sobriety—gives them praise and motivational incentives to recognize even minimal accomplishments made by these participants.

Drug courts also have frequent urine analysis monitoring and it's scheduled generally randomly, at least weekly, so that the court has a sense of whether the participant is actually on track and remaining clean and sober. Also, the participants see the judge generally every two weeks, and the judge gets a report from the multidisciplinary team about whether the participant is actively participating in treatment, not just sort of sitting in a counseling session but actively participating and seems motivated by participating in the program.

Some but not all drug-court programs have after-care planning, which I believe is absolutely critical because as you're addressing the core problems that individuals have, you have to make sure that you're connecting them with community or other resources that will help to sustain them as they transition fully back into the community and from the jurisdiction of the court.

From a judicial perspective, I believe drug courts work. By using a multidisciplinary approach, the drug court team not only addresses the participants' substance abuse needs but also their mental health, physical health, and social service and educational problems to the extent that resources allow. This effort requires a tremendous commitment by the judge and other stakeholders involved in that process, and it requires an investment of a personal nature as well as financial resources. This holistic approach forces the system to really hone in on core problems of drug court participants to affect the root causes of why the participant is using drugs.

The traditional way of handling cases hardly scratches the surface of what is needed in order to impact recidivism and help to establish or reestablish productive citizens in our community, which I think translates into community safety. Simply put, the traditional approach is largely one of case processing and adjudication, and an attempt to deliver services that often occur in a very fragmented way with nonproductive results. Drug courts provide more case supervision and judicial oversight than cases handled in the traditional manner.

Participants receive treatment early on once they are identified; clients are promptly accountable, as I indicated, for noncompliance; service delivery is better scrutinized because the judge sees the client and often can get a report back from the service providers on a biweekly basis as the court is reviewing the client's performance. The coercive effect also of judicial intervention using the carrot and stick approach also helps to motivate the participant's performance or gives the judge sufficient information to pursue alternative case planning or other legal options.

Lastly, given the scope of the substance abuse problem in our nation, I think drug court, while not a panacea, is a major advancement in terms of affecting the pervasive problems of drug and substance abuse that occur throughout this country. And I do believe drug courts are going to be, in our theory, helpful in strengthening communities and promoting community healthiness and safety.

Thank you.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Thank you, Judge. John.

JOHN ROMAN, Urban Institute: Well, good afternoon. As the sort of host on the panel, I would also like to thank you all for coming, thank our distinguished panel and everybody for agreeing to give up such a beautiful lunch to talk about drug courts.

So I think it's very encouraging that there is still so much interest in drug courts 15, 16 years after the first drug court in Miami-Dade opened its doors. I believe the drug court story is an important one, not only because it represents a serious effort by the criminal justice system to directly address the underlying causes of crime, but also because adult drug court principles are now being used throughout the criminal justice system, beyond just the adult drug users, where they started. As Greg listed, there are now juvenile drug courts, DWI courts, mental health courts, domestic violence courts. The other day I had a judge ask me what I thought about the utility of a specialized court for chronic bad check writers. (Laughter.)

So with that in mind, what I would like to do are just two things very quickly. What I would like to do is to talk briefly about the empirical evidence about drug courts, about how well adult drug courts work and juvenile drug courts work. And then what I would like to do is to talk about where we go from here from a public policy perspective, given that evidence and given what is happening around the country in the application of these drug court principles—this sort of idea of court reform by drug court. So let me start with drug court efficacy.

I also believe that the best adult drug courts are effective at reducing crime, reducing drug use, and I believe that they save their communities money. I am much less convinced that the same holds true for juvenile drug courts. So let me talk about the research. There have been more than 100 research studies about adult drug courts and if you look at sort of the best, most rigorous 25 of those, you probably come to the conclusion that drug courts reduce criminal offending by 15 to 20 percent. And what that means is that if you have 30 percent of your population you would expect to see rearrested in the next year or so, then instead they go through drug court, it's more like 24 percent. So as the judge said, this is not a panacea but this is—you know, this represents a real reduction in offending levels.

There is less evidence that drug courts reduce drug use and a lot of that is because it's very hard to monitor drug use. But even though the evidence is sort of ambiguous, I think the preponderance of the evidence is that adult drug court participants use fewer drugs and fewer of them use drugs during the period when they are participating in the drug court.

The research suggests sort of a profile of who is best helped by these adult models, and it tends to be somebody who is older, has a long history of drug use, and has a long history of multiple contacts with the criminal justice system. We do not know, I think, whether these effects, particularly the effects on drug use and offending, persist once people exit drug court and go back into the community—there is sort of a growing body of evidence that suggests that at least with respect to criminal offending that these effects sort of persist for a while after they leave drug court. I don't think we really know anything about the effects of drug court on employment, education, health status, life skills, parenting, family reunification, or any of those sorts of other issues.

But that being said, the fact that drug courts reduce criminal offending during the period when people are participating in drug courts is enough that you can sort of attribute some economic benefit to these programs, something like two dollars for every dollar that is invested in them. But it's important to talk about how that money is distributed. This isn't money that is going to show up in anybody's budget, right; this is money that the taxpayers or the public in the communities that are served by drug courts benefit. Drug courts cost more to operate than business-as-usual court processing.

And I don't believe in the short term that they save police or corrections or prisons any money. I think what happens is that drug-using offenders don't commit as many crimes in the community, and so the harms to the communities are reduced and that is where this benefit resides.

So you have this positive picture of adult courts. The juvenile story, you know, flows from that, and it's not surprising that it's not as positive. You have this finding (and it's all drug courts) that all older offenders, longer histories do better. You don't get those kinds of people in juvenile drug courts. There is wide variation in practice in juvenile drug courts, much more so than in adult drug courts, and I believe that a lot of that is the result that there is less juvenile substance abuse treatment available in communities, and that we know less about the pathologies of juvenile substance use. And so these treatment protocols are designed to treat addicts and you're far less likely to find an addict in a juvenile population than in an adult population.

And so what you get with juvenile drug courts is, I think, that there is some evidence that there is some net widening here, that kids come into the juvenile justice system and they get into juvenile drug courts, and they remain embedded in the juvenile justice system longer and more deeply than they would have been had they been processed through business as usual, and it's unclear that they are really bringing with them addiction problems that need to be solved through this intensive intervention.

Okay, so where do we go from here knowing this? And this is—you know, there is not much else you can say about the other kinds of specialty courts, the other problem-solving courts, because many of them are too new and they haven't really been evaluated. So we say, well, what can we take from this to inform policy? Where do we go from here? Are drug courts ready for a bigger role in criminal justice?

Well, about 20, 25,000 drug-involved offenders a year enter drug courts around the country. Looking at arrest/drug abuse data and national household survey drug use data, we concluded that there is something like 550 or 600,000 drug-involved offenders entering the justice system every year who meet a clinical definition of being at risk of dependence. So the potential population to be served by drug courts is very large, but we don't even really know how big that is.

But before we go and start really blowing up this model and taking it to scale and trying to serve this larger population, I think we need to know a lot more about how drug courts operate. I think to a large extent, the drug court is still a black box: we know a lot about what the people look like when they come into drug courts and we can observe something about how their behavior changes with respect to drug use and criminal offending when they come out, but we don't know a lot about what it is about the drug-court model that gets that behavioral change.

So, you know, is it the charismatic leadership of the judge and that interaction with the client that causes them to go in a different direction? Is it a rigid adherence to a sanctioning protocol that has been demonstrated to be efficacious? Is it just that they are getting higher dosages of substance abuse treatment than they would have otherwise? I don't think we know which of these things are most effective and what those combinations are.

And so from a policy perspective, what I would advocate—researchers, this should be no surprise—that we might need to do a little more research. And the research would be random clinical trials, right, where we are trying to look at how specific components of drug courts work and which are the most effective approaches. And then, once we begin to do that—and Doug Marlow has done one of these kinds of studies, but there are very few of them—then we can maybe go to an idea of an accreditation process where we go back to the courts and we say these are the efficacious practices and we will accredit you if you do these things so you don't have to continue to self-evaluate.

So the last point that I want to make is what do we want to do about the proliferation of problem-solving courts? I mean, should there be a problem-solving court for every pathology? I would suggest some caution as we move forward along those lines. I think the juvenile drug court story is a cautionary tale. I think that there is a lot that we don't know about juvenile addiction and juvenile treatment, and that it's a much more complicated problem than it is for adults. And so that says something about just sort of taking the drug-court model and putting it into a new system.

The other point—the final point I want to make is there are still a lot of skeptics; there are a lot of critics out there of this model. And so the danger is, is that if you have too rapid expansion into too many areas, that you give them fodder. And so suppose we went out and we set up a bad-check-writers court and it turned out that it didn't work—and I would argue it probably won't since I don't think we know anything about the pathology of check fraud—(scattered laughter)—that then there is ammunition that can be used to sort of bring down this whole movement, which has a lot of positive aspects to it and not just to prevent future bad-check-writing courts but to maybe get in the way of the adult drug courts themselves, which I think would be a shame.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Marcia.

MARCIA LEE, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime: Good afternoon.

My job in the panel here today is to talk a little bit about the politics of federal funding for the drug-court program. And because the road to get where we are now is not exactly a straight one, I want to go back and review the history a bit for a moment.

The federal funding for drug courts was first authorized in the crime bill in 1994. And at that time, drug courts were seen as soft on crime and unacceptable, and the Congress took the really unusual step of two years later affirmatively repealing the drug-court funding program in a rescissions bill. Even more unusual, and showing that Congress is not necessarily always consistent, the year following the repeal of the drug-court program, the funding for the drug-court program actually almost doubled. So to say that the Congress is of two minds on the drug-court program would be a strong understatement.

In the intervening years, Congress has continued to fund the grant program and the tide of congressional opinion about it has shifted mostly toward the positive. Now the drug-court program is seen by most as a valued innovation. What once was soft on crime is now commonsense criminal justice policy. And clearly the administration agrees. In this year's budget, the president recommended that the drug-court program be funded at a level 75 percent higher than it was last year. So funding went from $40 million to a proposed funding level of over $70 million. And I can tell you that is highly unusual among drug programs this year. This is a—you all know it's a serious year of belt tightening and this is highly unusual.

When the program was most recently reauthorized in 2001 in the Department of Justice reauthorization bill, it was done without any real debate. People just said, oh, yeah; okay, stick in a drug-court reauthorization program, that is fine. The only point that is worth noting in that is that included in the reauthorization were instructions to the GAO to do a study on—and this was just recently released—on recidivism rates, completion rates, drug use by participants while they are involved in a program, and costs to the criminal justice system.

And I think this provision underlies the overwhelming belief on the Hill that we need to prove that this drug-court program works. There are certain senators, particularly on the Judiciary Committee, who keep saying, well, you know, people say it's a good program and I get that but I don't know why; I don't know why it works. And that gets to your point about trying to figure out exactly what is it about the drug-court program that makes it successful.

And I think people want to see concrete results and that is made even harder by the fact that each drug court is different. You know, it is set up in a unique way by the judge who runs it and they are not necessarily comparable exactly across courts, and I think that is a frustration to some on the Hill who want to see, you know, a guarantee that a drug-court program can reduce recidivism by X percent every year and it's something they can take to the bank.

One thing that is important to note about the politics of this issue—and this may seem like inside baseball at first, but I promise it has a point. The drug-court program is authorized and funded by folks who tend to view the world through a criminal-justice lens. I think anyone who has been in a room where a corrections person and a treatment person are having a conversation about either a drug court or a prison-based treatment understands the disconnect between those two worlds.

I remember going to a conference a couple of years ago where I was just—I walked away. The one thing that amazed me most was the way people referred to the program participants. To the criminal-justice folks, they were offenders or inmates, and to the treatment folks, they were patients or clients. And it just is—that says it all I think; it just reflects the different ways people view the folks that we're talking about, trying to help here. And those differences are only magnified on Capitol Hill. And in a place as polarized at times as the Judiciary Committee, both in the House and the Senate, those differences can be huge and the misunderstandings brought by them can be a challenge.

I think that the way people view the folks that participate in these types of programs can really affect expectations and understandings. And on the Hill, as elsewhere, not everyone understands that addiction is a chronic relapsing disease and not everyone understands that while there may not be a cure for addition, it can be controlled just like asthma, hypertension, and other chronic relapsing diseases. And the rates of success or failure are pretty much the same for addiction as for the other similar diseases.

I think that there are a lot of people who still view addiction as a moral failing and think that if people would just get serious about their life they could stop. And everyone has someone they can point to either in the greater world or in their groups of friends and family who has just quit smoking, quit drinking, quit using drugs cold turkey and really are influenced by that and believe that others can do that as well and that as a policy matter, we should encourage that. And this is certainly one of the biggest challenges I think when it comes to hashing out drug legislation on the Hill.

There is an interesting dynamic at work in the drug-court program because I think that some of these folks who may not be very open to the idea of drug treatment have been introduced to it by the drug-court program. And they begin to see it as acceptable treatment because it's not just a carrot; it also includes a stick—that the judges can punish offenders when and if a relapse occurs. And I think that this is on one hand a great thing that there are people who are opening up to the idea that treatment can work. But on the other hand, it is double-sided sword because there are some in bill negotiations that I have been in who have actually suggested that perhaps all treatment funded by the federal government should be coerced if coerced treatment is more effective than voluntary treatment, and I think that is perhaps not the direction that is best to go in. (Chuckles.)

But treatment skeptics will only continue their support of drug courts as long as they believe the courts are getting tangible results and that the program is cost effective. And the importance of this really cannot be overstated. This is a constant refrain when folks on the Judiciary Committee are talking about the drug-court program—that they want to see the results, they want the results to be tangible.

This past year the drug-court program received a part score, which is a score that the Office of Management and Budget gives to all of the programs that they evaluate. It received a part score of 53 percent on effectiveness. It's certainly not the worst score that a program got and it's certainly—(chuckles)—not the best. But some programs with similar results had their funding cut, and I certainly would be hard-pressed to find a program with similar results that got the 75 percent funding increase that the drug-court program did. So I think that while the political support for drug courts is increasing on the Hill, it certainly is not on entirely secure footing and that is something that folks need to worry and—the idea of having research that shows exactly why drug courts is incredibly valuable.

The future of the drug-court program really depends on proven results and educating folks on the Hill about those successes. And the more success the drug-court program has and the more confident that people can be in its success, the more likely that other problem-solving courts will get congressional funding, and the more likely that the criminal justice system will be able to be reformed at least around the margins to refocusing on rehabilitation and helping offenders reenter into the community successfully.

And I think that when folks on the Hill—one of the hot topics these days is reentry courts, and I think a serious backdrop to that is the drug-court program and its people's positive experience with drug courts in their communities that are making them feel a little bit more comfortable about going forward with reentry bills as a whole. So I think that this is an important area not only for the sustainability of drug courts themselves but also for other innovative criminal-justice initiatives in the future.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Thank you, Marcia. Peter.

PETER REUTER, University of Maryland: Thank you.

My particular expertise is drug policy. I'm not very knowledgeable about courts and so I want to set the analyses of drug courts (in particular, juvenile drug courts) in the context of drug policy more generally. I should start by saying I am at a handicap here; I have been deprived of PowerPoint; it's how I conduct breakfast discussions. I have sort of gone along with the rules here. But I may ask you from time to time to look down at the handouts that include a bunch of figures on drug use both in the general population and in the criminal justice system.

My particular sermon on this is it's important to realize that the drug problem is certainly not getting worse and is probably in substantial ways getting better, and that amongst juveniles, drug involvement may be less important than it was a generation ago, certainly than 10, 15 years ago. Now, let me make that somewhat counterintuitive case.

Certainly if you look at the general population surveys like the one presented on page one, what you see is—and I have presented the prevalence rates for the highest-use groups, 18- to 25-year-olds—what you see is that with respect to most drugs, use has been very low or very stable over quite a long period of time. There is this odd jagged figure over to the right, which is methamphetamine, but the important thing to notice is that there we're talking about less than 1 percent of the population reporting having used methamphetamine in the recent past. Though you read a lot about methamphetamine and there are cities in which methamphetamine is a very serious problem, at the national level it is still substantially less serious a problem than cocaine or heroine, and in the general population, there is no reason to believe that its use is continuing to spread.

Even if you look at adolescence in terms of page two, where you have data from monitoring the future—the high school survey—what you see is that there was an upturn in marijuana use in the early 1990s, but since then marijuana use has stabilized and so has the use of most other drugs. Well, you may say general population—we're dealing with the tail that gets into serious trouble with drugs. The best estimates that are available, which are okay, suggest that that number has been declining slowly over at least a decade and that the number of persons with cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine use, the problem is substantially lower than it was and even much lower than it was on a prevalence basis as compared to the 1990s, for example.

And if you then look at the population with which I'm particularly concerned, which are juvenile offenders who show up in the criminal justice system—look at the figure on page five, D.C. juvenile pretrial use. It says it's rising—I keep updating the chart but not necessarily the heading. And what you see here is that the marijuana use among the arrested population of juveniles has been dominated by marijuana for a long time. There is indeed a drug problem in America, but if you ask, is it the problem for which we have treatment programs that are likely to be important for the juvenile population, the question becomes a much more tortured one.

We have at least in many cities relatively low uses of drugs that have high-dependency potential—marijuana has dependency potential not much related to criminality—but relatively low rates of use of the kinds of drugs for which we have created the drug-treatment system. One reads a lot about increases in drug treatments among juveniles. I think a reasonable conjecture of that is driven in large part for increased arrest for marijuana possession among juveniles and that it is less treatment for marijuana problems than it is treatment for marijuana-related legal problems, which isn't to say that it doesn't do some good, but if you're talking about the relationship of treatment to crime, there is a disconnect there.

With that as a background, let me turn to the role of juvenile drug courts. And the theory of drug courts at the adult level is a very sound one, which is that drug use is predictive of criminality within the drug-using population; that is, chronic users of drugs commit far fewer crimes when they are not using drugs. And programs that succeed in reducing drug use are very likely to succeed in reducing their criminality; whether you need treatment is a question.

As many of you in this room know, I'm a great fan of Mark Kleiman's argument for coerced abstinence, which simply says that lots of people who have drugs problems, if given the right incentive, will in fact quit using drugs. Urban Institute is the only research organization that has done a good evaluation of the coerced abstinence program and indeed found rather positive effects from it.

And an interesting conjecture is that within the context of juvenile courts, coerced abstinence may be much more central than helping with adult drugs because in fact there is much less certainly about what good adolescent treatment looks like. The research has shown—I cheated before coming here and read a recent review of the adolescent-drug-treatment research and the answer is, as you might expect, that there are few studies and they are fairly weak—(audio break, tape change)—aimed at the juvenile offender, I think, arguably, has very substantial promise and with moderate sort of—a modest share but important part of the juvenile offender population may make a contribution.

And John is the coeditor of the definitive volume at this stage of what we know about drug courts, and he has summarized that in the few words that it needs by way of summary, which is we know very little about them.

I want to end just by saying that I think there's a predictable cycle here as to what's going to happen with this innovation, which is there is a great deal of enthusiasm for it now. There will be evaluations and there will be weak evaluations of weak programs because the programs are still learning how to do it right, and the evaluators are still learning how to do their stuff right. There will be disillusionment, and if we get past that, the programs will get better, the evaluations will be better, and I suspect that we will in fact find that juvenile drug courts can make a noticeable, modest difference to the crime problem.


GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Thank you, Peter.

So perhaps, as is often the case when you get four people together, a complicated story emerges. You know, we've heard some good news about adult drug courts reducing recidivism and substance abuse. We've heard some good news about drug use going down. We've heard good news about the political popularity of drug courts on the Hill. But we've also heard some cautionary notes about the need for more research, about GAO findings that are less than perfect, and particularly about the juvenile drug court movement and the dangers of overspecialization.

So with that I want to throw it out and see what you guys have made of this panel and open it up for questions. There's a microphone in the back, and if you could just wait for the microphone to reach you and state your name and organizational affiliation, to the extent you have one, that would be great.

Right here.

BILL BLYE, Department of the Treasury: Marcia, can you speak to the GAO report, "Findings and Recommendations," and more importantly, did it please its congressional masters?

MARCIA LEE, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime: I'm not sure if it has pleased the people who wanted it to be in there. One of the frustrations on drug policy overall right now on the Hill is that people, for the most part, focus on it about a minute before they have to make a decision, and there aren't a lot of decision points either. It used to be that crime and drug issues ranked highest among issues that mattered to voters and now not so much.

So I don't know. Time will tell about whether or not the folks who felt strongly about seeing results are pleased or satisfied with what GAO had to say. The program will be up for reauthorization again next year, and that's probably the first we will hear from anyone on it.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: In the back?

RANDY MUCK, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: My particular concern is around juvenile drug courts, and adolescent treatment in particular. It seems to me that what's happening here is analogous to what happened in Treatment for Youth, which was that adult models were overlaid on adolescent services, which proved to be ineffective and usually led to negative outcomes.

I would suggest that in your review of the literature that by 1997 there were only 14 extant studies on treatment outcomes for youth. Since 1997 there are over 200 studies in the field and I have not yet found a review that covers all of those. So there are technologies now that are available that have been shown to be effective for youth. My concern is that it's a bifurcated research community.

The research community that deals with the adolescent drug treatment piece does not know the research community that deals with drug courts and with the justice system. And these two communities don't talk together, and it's very clear to me they don't know each other very well and know much about what each other is doing. And it seems to me if this is to go forward well, that there needs to be some way to bring these two communities together so that they can learn from each other, which heretofore has not happened, and I'm wondering about your thoughts about that.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: John, do you want to respond to that?

JOHN ROMAN, Urban Institute: Well, I mean, yeah, I absolutely agree that it's two different communities. I think there is—on the sort of justice side, there is some skepticism about juvenile substance abuse treatment because, you know, there's a perception I think that the same people who are out there sort of marketing different protocols are the same ones doing the evaluation of those protocols, and so it's sort of hard to know what to make of that literature. On the other hand, there is more available now than there was in the past. The problem, I think, is that when we went around—when we did our juvenile drug court study, we only went to six juvenile courts. But what we found in those courts was very few kids who sort of, you know, met a clinical sort of diagnosis of addiction. We saw a lot of kids who had some problems, and one of their problems was that they used some drugs. And so, you know, there's probably some correlation there, but it's hard to know what to make of that.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Over here. Latricia.

DON MURRAY, National Association of Counties: One of our biggest problems is the mentally ill in jail, and the mental health courts have been advanced as a way of dealing with that problem, although a number of counties provide services long before someone goes to court; Los Angeles County, for example, has a pilot program where they divert someone right at the scene of a disturbance right into a health unit or to a housing unit.

Our concern with mental health courts is that, one, it comes too late. It could be a lot sooner, and one shouldn't have to go to court to get help. But I just wondered what your reaction is to the—and the other problem we face is that there's no money for mental health programs that divert the person from jail. It may be that the drug court is the only place one could go to for these kinds of programs. It's not in the current budget, for example, even though legislation unanimously passed both houses of Congress.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Do you want to respond?

JUDGE JOSEY-HERRING, District of Columbia Superior Court: I would like to say that I am on a court of general jurisdiction, and I used to be in the criminal division of our court, which is the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. And when I was on a misdemeanor calendar, it was pretty apparent to me that a large number of defendants on that calendar had pretty severe mental health problems, had previous contacts with the mental health system. Since I've been in family for several years now, the court on the criminal side has embarked on a community court effort.

I think the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District initially started with that approach—community prosecution. But the court, in an effort to bring in various service providers to address, again, some of these court issues—problem solving, bringing a problem-solving approach to bear on these circumstances—have really tried to get the mental health community—in the District, the Department of Mental Health—to step up to the plate to provide services so that these individuals wouldn't get overly criminalized. For example, most defendants with severe mental health problems—schizophrenic or something else, bipolar disorder—you know, as a judge, when you're having the court room clerk give them a notice to reappear in court that the chances of them reappearing—especially if they're homeless—are very, very minimal.

And consequently, clients with mental health issues or defendants with mental health issues, just like substance abusers, you can identify them from their rap sheet because they have very long rap sheets because, with respect to the mental health defendant, that person is not necessarily focused and oriented in the same way. And as they're moving from shelter to shelter or even if they have housing, they're not necessarily inclined, if they're not taking their medication, if they don't have medication, if they're not—some of them—supervised pretty tightly, likely to reappear in court and therefore will face a bench warrant and a new charge for failing to appear in court. And consequently, a lot of those minor defendants end up adding to the overcrowding of prisons, which really costs the system money as well.

And so I would submit that with respect to all of these problems, if you don't try and adopt—if not a problem-solving approach—some approach to understanding that the reason people are coming into our systems is because they have some court issues that if left unaddressed will cost the system something in another arena. If you don't bring that sort of perspective to the process, then effectively we're still going to pay out a lot of money and make a lot of political statements but not really improve our courts. And as far as I'm concerned, I would like to see a lot fewer people in court who I believe are basically helpless because I don't have the resources to get them the services or get professionals involved who might be able to help them and get them to a point of being more productive in the community.

JOHN ROMAN, Urban Institute: I would just add to that that I don't think it's an either-or choice. I don't think we have to choose between treatment in the community or treatment through the criminal justice system or the court system. And I would further say that I don't sense that judges like Judge Josey-Herring are out looking for mentally ill defenders to bring them into the system. I think the reality is that these folks have been dropped in the laps of judges and attorneys, and they have two choices. They can pretend that they're not there and just continue to cycle the cases as they always have or they can try to solve their problems. And I think that that's what judges—many more judges are opting for the latter approach than the former, and I think that's good news.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Over here.

TIM TUNNER, National Association of Social Workers: This question follows on the mental health issue and goes toward the research end, focusing more with John there. And it seems like even with the adult population—as you said, there has been some success shown with the drug courts in the adult population and less so with the juvenile population. I'm wondering if any research has been done that you've seen that specifically looks at success in dual diagnosis programs that—you know, there are some out there, not a lot—but if any of the research has focused on those programs and seen if they've had any success or more success than your general programs.

JOHN ROMAN, Urban Institute: Somebody else might be able to jump in on this as well, but the reality is that adult drug courts tend to exclude dual diagnosis. So if somebody comes in with a mental health problem and a substance abuse problem, chances are in more courts than not, they won't be admitted—they won't be found eligible for the problem. And the courts will tell you that's because they don't believe they have the resources to treat them. And so I don't know of any research that looks specifically at the mental health component in either adult or juvenile drug courts. I know that there is a mental health court demonstration evaluation that is ongoing, and I don't believe—Janice, do you know anything about it or can say anything about what they found? But I don't believe there's anything out there.

JUDGE JOSEY-HERRING, District of Columbia Superior Court: I should add that in the District of Columbia, we have a family treatment court, an adult drug court, and a juvenile court. But our family treatment court does have a mental health component because we recognized in the pilot phase, the one-year pilot phase, that a lot of the women were depressed, victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and a host of other things, having done things that they were not proud of in order to get more drugs and needed to really deal with those issues. As they were becoming more clearheaded and clean and sober, it became very overwhelming for them to reflect on all of that.

And so we are still in the process of strengthening the mental health aspect of treatment provision because we think that there's really not an effective way to treat a substance abuser without anticipating that you're going to have to deal with the mental health aspect of it. Obviously some clients have more severe mental health problems than others. And for us, in terms of screening, we attempt to analyze—and we are now leaving it to the Department of Mental Health to do that—whether the client is able to attend to the treatment regimen, meaning, are they going to be able to sit there and listen and get something from it or interact without constantly being distracting because they are hearing voices or something like that?

We also consider whether they can be managed via medication. Some drug courts don't believe that it's appropriate to have participants on any medication at all. For us, we do believe, since mental health issues are very pervasive, that it is important to the extent that it's needed to have clients, if they need medication, to permit that to happen. If they don't, obviously we don't give it to them.

ROBERT LERMAN, Urban Institute: I guess I didn't take the course before 101 so I have a couple basic questions. First, what typically are the crimes for which they're in the drug court for? What amounts of jail time would they save by going through this? And then a separate question is, how much benefit is there from the kind of division of labor that you have of specialized expertise on the part of judges and other staff on the courts where they've got a certain kind of case and they become much more expert in that one area than if they had to cover such a broad range?

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Sure.

ROBERT LERMAN, Urban Institute: What kinds of numbers are there? How many people actually benefit or are in drug courts compared to the total number of drug cases that the courts are prosecuting?

JOHN ROMAN, Urban Institute: All right, well, let me take a crack at that. The last question I tried to address earlier, so something like 20,000, 25,000 drug court participants a year compared with maybe 500,000-600,000 drug-involved defendants were at risk of drug dependence; so less than 5 percent, I would say. In terms of what charges they're looking at, each drug court has a different set of eligibility rules, so you'd have to actually go to drug court 401 to get to this. (Laughter.) So you actually haven't gotten there yet, but—grad school, that's right. So, we did a survey of 382 drug courts and the most common charges are felony drug possession, misdemeanor drug possession, and then, sort of, associated charges. Sales tend to get you excluded over a small amount, so people who are dealing to support their habits typically—they don't—


JOHN ROMAN, Urban Institute: Someone committing property crimes to support their habit, shoplifting, theft, prostitution. But you know, again, that's probably only about half the courts will let you in for those charges. It tends to be felony drug possession that gets you into the court, and then you asked how long. It depends. I mean, that's the answer to every drug court question: it depends. But so there are two kinds of courts. There's really a pretrial drug court that is a diversion program, so it's misdemeanors instead of looking at less than a year. That was the typical model, and now it's sort of shifting where the typical model is post-dispositions and it's more focused on felons, and so they're looking at least a year. It's probably on average something like two and a half years for a typical felon, but some of these folks are looking at three strikes or something where they could be looking at a long period of incarceration. And Mike Rempel has done a really interesting study in New York that I think is in your packet, and he found that the longer the sentence you're looking at, the more likely you are to do well in the program, which sort of fits with the Mark Kleiman story, I think.

JUDGE JOSEY-HERRING, District of Columbia Superior Court: I was going to say that in the District of Columbia, in terms of felons, they can face up to 30 years in prison. However, generally you have to be a repeat offender before you will get that type of sentence, but that's their exposure, even on the first time out for the felons. You ask about, essentially, how judges gain expertise in this area. Is that fair or do you want to recharacterize that? Am I mischaracterizing it?

Well, I think it's important that the judges are educated about the impact of substance or effects of substance abuse on an individual. I think that it gives you—I think it's important that judges have training about it. It's sort of like the domestic violence area to the extent that judges who are not educated about the impact of domestic violence—they were not handling the cases in a way that lots of people have deemed appropriate.

And there you've got the VAWA legislation and APA legislation that follows because you have some contact, if you will, if you have sufficient training and expertise to really tailor your sentence or your reaction or your response to what the presenting problem is, what the defendant—the good thing about the court system is that, to the extent that the judge can hold a sentence over someone's head or incarcerate them for short periods of time to get them to understand and appreciate that there are pretty immediate consequences even though you're approaching them in part, they understand that you're helping them but you are still a judge and that you will make them accountable if they're not as serious as everybody is on the team about getting clean and sober and moving on.

You must have a multi-disciplinary approach, I believe; so, not just the judge, but I think everyone on the team has to be trained about this particular population so that they are making correct arguments or taking good positions about what the courts should do or what the course of action should be. And in our court, we recently finished some training with the National Drug Court Institute with our juvenile drug courts and their family treatment courts. These were refresher trainings because we've had trainings in the past and your stakeholders move in and out over the course of a decade or a number of years, and so it's important for everyone on the team to understand the approach because the approach is therapeutic. It's not the traditional adversarial model where every time someone says something that you can object to, you object, and thereby you're stalling the whole process and really defeating the purpose of trying to encourage the client to move forward.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Right here.

J.J. SMITH , Substance Abuse Funding Week: I have two questions, one for Ms. Lee and one for Mr. Roman. First for Ms. Lee—how strong is the support on the Hill for making all federally funded treatment coercive? And for Mr. Roman, can you expand and provide some details about accreditation for drug courts and what effect that might have, both on the Hill and out in the communities?

MARCIA LEE, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime: I don't want to suggest that there is strong support on the Hill for making all federally funded drug treatment coercive. I think my point with that was I've heard that suggested by some who, when people are trying to convince them or they read a study saying that course treatment is at the time more effective than voluntary treatment, people have led with the question of, well then, should all treatment be coerced if it's more effective? I'm not trying to suggest though that that is a pervasive view, but these are the kind of notions that arise in the negotiations on these types of legislation.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Do you have thoughts there? Okay.

JOHN ROMAN, Urban Institute: With respect to accreditation, so the accreditation idea is really that there is tremendous variation in the way these innovations are implemented in different areas. There's a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people in the National Drug Court Institute. There's a lot of work at the Center for Court Innovation. A lot of courts do a lot of work trying to educate people about the most effective ways to deliver these kinds of services, and as these programs grow and evolve and there are more types of them, this is going to be an even sort of greater challenge.

The problem is that communities sort of face different challenges within their institutions and, with great deference to the judges in the room, great deference—(laughter)—judges like to keep control over what goes on in their court, and they want to have some discretion. I hear drug court judges say all the time, you know, I can look at this person in front of me and I can know when they're lying, and I know when I need to do this or that with them.

And the problem is, and this is just sort of one example, that the research sort of suggests that if you want to really work with this population that there's a way to do it to implement sanctions where they're sort of swift, certain, and severe, and they're consistent and appropriate. And people are sort of given the set of rules that they're going to face when they come in the door, and then those rules are adhered to as they progress through the program. And there's a lot of evidence to suggest that this is the right way to do that. If you have an accreditation process, that's a way to help the courts to move in a direction that they might themselves be somewhat resistant to. This is one example.

QUESTION: And how, John, do you respond to those who have said that drug courts, far from reducing judicial discretion or movement back toward judicial discretion and away from a prosecutor-oriented criminal justice system?

JOHN ROMAN, Urban Institute: Well I mean, you know, there's been a lot of discussion about this sort of team-oriented approach of drug courts, and I think the sort of staffing and the sort of holistic view of the drug court client participant offender. And I think that those are sort of key elements of drug courts, this sort of information sharing, this referral to appropriate services. If you look at the research literature, many of the things that where drug court judges exercise a lot of discretion aren't actually supported by the research, that the research would actually suggest far less discretion for judges that, like I said about sanctioning, that criteria for progression through the program to graduation are sort of rigid. The criteria for people failing and having to serve their alternative sentence are sort of rigid, and that's where the drug court discretion is. And I think the research sort of suggests that less discretion in those areas would lead to better outcomes.

JUDGE JOSEY-HERRING, District of Columbia Superior Court: May I comment on that?

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Of course. (Laughter.)

JUDGE JOSEY-HERRING, District of Columbia Superior Court: Okay. I—because the drug courts are based on a team model, prosecutors are always a member of the team, meaning they share in the decisionmaking process and most of these teams work on a consensus basis with the judge sort of making the call on things that are not easily resolvable. But by and large, you have a consensus process, and in a normal case handled in the traditional way, the judge would have some sentencing discretion and in my view, this is not very different from that except I do feel that the judge gives up a lot because the judge is accountable to the team, and even though the judge is the team leader, the judge has to listen to and respect the views of all the various team players.

And because it's a consensus process, the judge has to submit to being open to investing in that. If the judge is not willing to do that, I think the judge will kill the relationship of the team, and so it's really critical for judges coming in to understand that they are not calling the shots alone but that they have to consider and respect the perspectives of the various service providers who come from different disciplines and sort of analyze how that information impacts the judge's decision to sanction or not sanction an individual in terms of how harshly the individual should be sanctioned.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Over here, Latricia.

CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMSON, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy: The question that you have brought up, Mr. Roman, in regards to selective admission to, I guess, the drug courts. Statistically, how would that work out? I kind of see a flaw here when you're saying that your recidivism rate, your correctional rate, your rehabilitation rates are better than, essentially, the average of all drug offenders. If you're selecting only the most opportune individuals into the program, optimally you have the best statistics. How does it work out if that individual was to go through a normal rehabilitation cycle through the judicial system? And then I guess, secondly, what's the difference between what the drug court provides outside of the prison environment to what the parole officers should be providing through testing, through job placement, through essentially reinsertion into society? I know that's not what a lot of probation officers do, but wasn't that what they were supposed to do?

JOHN ROMAN, Urban Institute: Okay, so the question as I understand it, and you can rephrase—if drug courts are sort of instituting eligibility practices to identify only those offenders who are most likely to do well, least likely to commit new crimes, then how can you say that they prevent more crimes than sort of a business-as-usual process. Part of this is an evaluation question that I think people probably don't want us to get into, but part of it is—because it's very hard to do this sort of stuff, to do this constant evaluation, which is why it has to be done well. But, so I think there are two strengths.

There are certainly drug courts that go out and try and find sort of, let those defendants who are least likely to commit new crimes. But the literature suggests that, you know, the courts that go out and sort of get some of the toughest cases are the ones that see the biggest differences. And so, it has tended to be the case that the most rigorous evaluation has been done in big cities at big courts. They tend to have—are more likely to have a serious drug-using population. Heroin, opiates, cocaine, crack. And so, it's just—it's sort of an artifact of us having looked at these really serious courts that you can sort of make these claims of differences.

PETER REUTER, University of Maryland: This is the classic evaluation from what is the population you're comparing it with and, you know, the literature has moved along, so that a great deal of care is given trying to select a comparison group that is as similar as possible to the one. And so, you know, it is not perfectly done but there is a real effort to control for everything that you can control for; it probably comes pretty close.

JUDGE JOSEY-HERRING, District of Columbia Superior Court: I was also going to add that as he indicated, all drug-court programs don't only deal with low-level offenders. In fact, our family treatment court program deals with moms who have been using, generally, crack for five to ten years or more. We chose that population and you set your target eligibility criteria based on what your outcome, what your expected outcomes are. We chose that particular population because of the Adoptions and Safe Families Act requirements and the timelines that under—the adoptions in Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). And we figured that, the hard-core substance abusers were more likely to lose their kids under ASFA if we didn't have a very comprehensive program in place that was pretty intense, and while structured to get them or help them to become clean and sober before the court, was in a position under ASFA of having to make decisions about whether to terminate parental right, move on to other permanency options other than reunification.

And so that particular program deals with hard-core offenders. And we're showing some positive results. We think that the savings is not just cost savings, but it's human savings—things so the child welfare system savings in terms of them committing crimes on the street, whether it's prostitution, stealing, or whatever and potential savings in terms of crime that will not occur if those individuals are clean and sober.

And I just want to add, and this is off topic, but I was at juvenile drug court in the family court for a little more than two years and I tend to think juveniles are tougher to treat because they're younger, they're less mature, they're developmentally at a different point than adults. They don't have sort of mired histories of substance abuse, and therefore they feel a lot more invincible that they're not going to hit bottom right now, that they have some time to go. There's a lot of peer pressure obviously involved, and to the extent that people are putting together juvenile drug-court programs, both programs have to be geared toward dealing with that population with those things and with other things in mind.

A lot of the kids in the neglect and abuse system, at least in our system, have cases also. We call them companion cases on the delinquency calendars. And those kids, because of their family dysfunction issues and sort of generational issues of substance abuse, are more at risk, so when you make the statement that the kids in D.C. are largely using marijuana, those kids are at a huge disadvantage because a lot of them are poor, mostly uneducated, or truant. Most of them are suffering from some kind of mental health issue including depression just based on environmental exposures, and they are from single-family households. Generally kids are living, if not with a single parent, with neighbors or people in the community because their parents are using drugs or whatever.

And so those kids are largely distinguishable from your typical middle-class kid who is going to school, who has a supportive family and network, and who has a sense of self-esteem that will help them to recover and move on with their lives and have drug use as a phase in their life as a opposed to a lifestyle. We see in our system a lot of our kids graduate from the juvenile delinquency system into the adult system, and that's why the drug court was started in our jurisdiction. So I do believe drug courts for juveniles can be very effective.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: Let me move onto the second half of your question, which was about probation—(cross talk). And let me just try and respond to them. You can correct me if you think this is wrong, but I think that we might not be here if probation was working, frankly. I think that—

QUESTION: Should we not fix the problem by inventing something new?

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: I think that probation in most places, in many places—and this is obviously painting with a broad brush—is kind of the bastard stepchild of the criminal justice system. It's under-funded, under-resourced. In many cities, you see probation officers carrying caseloads of a thousand per officer. I think it's very hard to exercise meaningful oversight in that context, and it's very hard to link people to meaningful services in that context. And so in a lot of places, I think judges have lost faith in probation, so that's one response.

I think the second response is that the road is meaningful, and that defendants, I think, and I think there's some research to back this up—hear messages differently when it comes from the bench as opposed to coming from a social worker or from a probation officer. And I think the drug courts make use of that insight.

JUDGE JOSEY-HERRING, District of Columbia Superior Court: I would agree.

JOHN ROMAN, Urban Institute: Yeah. And Marsha said something about reentry courts. And so I think part of the greatest limitation of drug courts is this linkage between criminal justice—what Randy Muck said—about this criminal justice and treatment sort of lack of cohesion. Other courts, other sort of problem-solving courts potentially get around that, like reentry courts, when it really is a different way of supervising people. When you're trying to refer people to services—sort of address some of their underlying issues, but it really isn't—it's less a therapeutic process and more of a supervision capacity, and then you get some of this benefit of having this sort of charismatic leadership, but the judge—it sort of strikes me. There isn't any evidence really, but it strikes me that reentry courts are a very good idea and they can pick up some of the slack from parole.

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: One last question?

QUESTION: I want to go back a little bit and build on something that Judge Josey-Herring said a little while ago. I think there are two elements that we have to remember when we're thinking about drug courts and developing drug courts. And she said they're a collaborative process. There is an incredible amount of team building that an education, cross-education that has to be done before you can develop an effective drug court.

And the other thing is that they're very person dependent. For instance, if the drug court judge who may be very dedicated to this process moves to another docket and another judge transfers in who may not have the understanding of the benefits of substance abuse treatment for these offenders, or if the prosecuting attorney who is also a key member of this thinks that all offenders should go directly to jail, then you've got a real problem. And you almost have to start from the beginning again.

And two other things. One, we have a multiagency consortium dealing with the severe and violent offender reentry issue. So we are looking at the really severe and violent cases rather than just the minor, you know, misdemeanors and minor felonies. And also with reentry courts, they're dealing with a lot of issues. The issue they're dealing with is really trying to work with the offender to make their transition back into society a good one—that they are going to experience substance abuse, mental health treatment if they need it, be able to find housing, they're going to find job training and all this—and even things as basic as well, what do you need to say to somebody if you're in an employment interview? You know, do you have to tell them all the nitty-gritty about your criminal past or are there certain things you can eliminate in that process?

GREG BERMAN, Center for Court Innovation: I've been warned that we have to end precisely at 1:30 and so I think we are just one minute over, so I get credit. Thank you so much for coming and have a good day.

Topics/Tags: | Crime/Justice

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