The Early Drug Courts: Case Studies in Judicial Innovation


Edited by: W. Clinton Terry III

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  • Drugs, Health, and Social Policy Series

    Edited by James A. Inciardi

    University of Delaware

    About This Series…

    The Sage Drugs, Health, and Social Policy Series provides students and professionals in the fields of substance abuse, AIDS, public health, and criminal justice access to current research, programs, and policy issues particular to their specialties. Each volume focuses on a topic of national significance.

    • Drugs and Crime in Lifestyle Perspective

      Glenn D. Walters

    • Policing Places With Drug Problems

      Lorraine Green

    • Drug Control and the Courts

      James A. Inciardi, Duane C. McBride, & James E. Rivers

    • Crack Cocaine, Crime, and Women

      Sue Mahan

    • Cocaine-Exposed Infants

      James A. Inciardi, Hilary L. Surratt, & Christine A. Saum

    • Heroin in the Age of Crack-Cocaine

      James A. Inciardi & Lana D. Harrison

    • The Early Drug Courts

      W. Clinton Terry, III


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    There are many people to recognize for their help in preparing this book, but none are more important than the authors of the articles appearing in it. John S. Goldkamp, Elizabeth Piper Deschenes, Rebecca D. Petersen, Brooke Bedrick, Jerome H. Skolnick, and Steven Belenko graciously agreed to write pieces describing the organization and purpose of the drug courts they have studied, along with the results of their evaluations of how well these courts have worked. Judge Jeff Tauber, formerly of the Oakland Drug Court, now President of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, was helpful in providing materials and assistance in completing the chapter on the Oakland Drug Court. During the inception and completion of this book, I received encouragement and support from David Bergwall, Director of the School of Policy Management at Florida International University. C. Terry Hendrix, Senior Editor at Sage Publications, was not only receptive to the idea of producing a book on the early drug courts but provided support during each stage of its development, as did his assistant Fiona Lyon and others from the Sage organization. There are many people with whom I have worked during the course of my research into drug court issues, who have shaped my views and those reflected in this book. David Choate, Executive Director of Broward County Substance Abuse, lured me into the evaluation of Broward County's Drug Court, while Guy Wheeler, Director of the Broward County Drug Court Treatment Program, and Marie Reynolds, who was Executive Director of the Broward County Addiction Recovery Center at the time I collected data, smoothed my entrance into their treatment world and its issues so that I was able to collect and understand the information needed to track and evaluate client progress. The enthusiasm of Judge Robert Fogan, Broward's first Drug Court judge, was both inspirational and infectious. The dedication and hard work of the treatment counselors and staff, especially Phil Madan, Pearlie Spencer, Elaine Hammond, and Carmen Jones, who kindly tolerated my endless questions and requests for “just this one more piece of informatiosn” helped make my work more manageable and understandable. There were also numerous judicial and county officials who provided support when needed—Commissioner John Hart, Assistant to the County Administrator Pete Corwin, Chief Assistant State Attorney Ralph Ray, Clerk of the Broward County, Florida, Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court Robert Lockwood (who provided a list of first-time cocaine drug offenders from which a comparison group was selected, and Leslie Monteith and Julie Poole from Pretrial Services who determined who was Drug Court eligible from among the list of offenders provided by the Clerk's Office. Special thanks go to Pat Voss and Lisa Hauser for the hundreds of hours spent making sense of court records and for translating and inputting the data in machine-readable form. Finally, I would like to thank all the drug court professionals I have met at meetings and elsewhere and to my students, who by now have probably grown tired of my droning on about the value of drug courts within American jurisprudence.


    When the first drug court opened in Miami, Florida, a decade ago, little did its planners and participants dream that a modest local experiment would catalyze an international movement. The building blocks of that first court—common sense, collaboration, and an eagerness to share the lessons of both success and failure with other jurisdictions—were critical to its success, and they were shared by the early courts that followed.

    This book tells the stories of the pioneers of the drug court movement. It tells the stories of individuals who, frustrated with an unresponsive system, embraced change at great risk. Today's many drug courts owe a great debt to the history created by these few. As drug courts increase rapidly across America and gain an international footing, it is gratifying to see that their efforts retain the passion, commitment, and camaraderie that marked the work that first brought drug courts to reality.

    The pioneer courts that are the focus of this study were developed at a time when the nation was waging its full-scale “war” on drugs. Congress and state legislatures were responding to growing numbers of drug offenders with mandatory minimum-sentencing laws; prosecutors and police were conducting drug sweeps that resulted in mass arrests; and the nation's courts were hard at work developing fast track mechanisms to dispose of rapidly growing caseloads as quickly as possible. In this highly charged atmosphere, prevention and treatment were seen as soft and potentially dangerous approaches by many policy makers, especially those at the highest federal levels: programs competing for funding that officials felt would be better spent on enforcement and interdiction.

    The first drug courts sought to confront addiction head on. They sought to do more than simply process criminal cases generated by addiction; they sought to change behavior and restore individuals to a productive role in society. This seemingly straightforward goal for the criminal justice system—treating addiction while offenders are under the coercive power of the court—was met with disdain by funding agencies, policy makers, the media, and practitioners in traditional courts, who viewed the first drug court judges, public defenders, prosecutors, providers, and administrators as having missed the point of the war on drugs.

    Judges were not viewed as problem solvers; prosecutors and defenders were considered adversaries, not collaborators; providers were believed to work best in isolation, untainted by the concerns of justice systems; and administrators, operating within strict fiscal boundaries, were not in the business of funding treatments or treatment enhancements, such as acupuncture, that they considered to be voodoo-like practices. Even drug testing, now an essential component of drug courts, was seen as a tool not to move clients toward sobriety but to trigger punitive sanctions, such as incarceration, against them.

    Traditional courts, funders, and policy makers were also hostile to the idea that drug-involved clients needed assistance in the courtroom for social service needs such as a decent job, housing, or education. Meeting those needs, they believed, was in the domain of others, not the nation's justice systems.

    The first drug courts not only persevered against these odds, and without financial or moral support from any quarter of federal government, but spread the promise of their new approach to communities throughout the country. Such has been the extraordinary growth of this concept that it is difficult now to imagine that only 10 years ago, a single drug court existed, struggling to gain acceptance and funding.

    What was seen by many in the early days of drug courts as a radical approach to addiction within the criminal justice system can now be seen as the first significant step toward change. This thoughtful and well-researched volume—the first book-length academic study of the drug court movement—documents how remarkable and difficult that step was. The court's legacy, its emphasis on problem solving rather than case processing, is one that will influence our nation's concept of justice.

    Timothy J.MurrayDirector, Planning and Policy Division, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice
  • About the Editor

    W. Clinton Terry, III is Associate Professor in the Criminal Justice program at Florida International University. He holds a PhD in sociology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and was a DAAD Fellow at the University of Göttingen, Germany He previously taught criminology and criminal justice at the California State University at Fresno and at the University of Florida. He has written articles on a wide variety of police topics, mostly focusing upon the organization of police departments and behavior of officers. He has also participated in and directed research about prison use in Florida, bail bond and pretrial release in Dade County, Florida's State Certification Examination for Law Enforcement and Correctional Personnel, and criminal patterns in Opa Locka, Florida. He has conducted evaluations of the Miami Police Department's Crimes Against the Elderly Unit, the DARE program in Broward County, Florida, and the Broward County Drug Court. The last project resulted in the appearance of this edited volume.

    About the Contributors

    Brooke Bedrick is Deputy Research Director at the Police Foundation, and a PhD student in the jurisprudence and social policy program at the University of California, Berkeley She has an MA in history from Columbia University and a BA in anthropology from Harvard University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She has worked with young people on parole from the California Youth Authority and has provided literacy tutoring to women in the San Francisco Jail. She is the author of Improving Treatment Services for Drug Court Clients in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, a report published for the East Bay Public Safety Corridor Partnership. She is interested in the social and historical construction of justice, the history of punishment, and the gender, race, and class dimensions of the administration of justice.

    Steven Belenko is Senior Research Associate at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. He received his bachelor's degree in applied mathematics and PhD in experimental psychology from Columbia University. He has held senior research positions at the New York City Criminal Justice Agency, Inc., the New York City Mayor's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Mathematica Policy Research, and the Vera Institute of Justice. He has directed research projects on various topics related to drugs and the criminal justice system. He has been studying drug courts since 1991. His other research interests include HIV risks and risk prevention, sexual violence and substance abuse, and access to treatment services. His book, Crack and the Evolution of Anti-Drug Policy, was published in 1993 and received an Outstanding Academic Book Award from the American Library Association's Choice Magazine.

    Elizabeth Piper Deschenes is Professor at California State University, Long Beach, in the Department of Criminal Justice. She received her bachelor's degree in sociology from Colby College and both an MA and a PhD in criminology from the University of Pennsylvania. Previously, she worked for URSA Institute on the Violent Juvenile Offender Project and for UCLA's Drug Abuse Research Center on studies of narcotics addicts. As a consultant to RAND since 1986, she has been involved in evaluations of experimental correctional programs for adults and juveniles, including intensive supervision programs for different types of drug offenders, residential and intensive aftercare programs for juvenile delinquents, and court-supervised drug testing and treatment for adult probationers. She is currently working on evaluations of adult drug courts in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, as well as a study of a drug court for juveniles in Los Angeles County.

    John S. Goldkamp is Professor of Criminal Justice at Temple University and heads the Crime and Justice Research Institute, a nonprofit research organization in Philadelphia. He has studied bail practices in the United States for two decades, producing numerous reports, articles, and books. Recent work has focused on innovation in the courts and, in particular, the growth of treatment drug courts and the application of the drug court treatment concept to domestic violence. His study of the Miami Drug Court was published at the end of 1993, and the directions and implications of the movement were described in Justice and Treatment Innovation: The Drug Court Movement. He conducted a National Institute of Justice study of Miami's domestic violence court (The Role of Drugs and Alcohol Abuse in Domestic Violence and Its Treatment: Dade County's Domestic Violence Court Experiment). His focus on the evolving role of criminal courts is reflected in a project to establish comprehensive alternatives to incarceration and effective management of jail overcrowding in Philadelphia. He is conducting evaluations of drug courts in Philadelphia, Portland, and Las Vegas, and evaluating Philadelphia's Criminal Justice Treatment Network for Women.

    Rebecca D. Petersen is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the Division of Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Texas San Antonio. She received her bachelor's degree cum laude in criminal justice from Northeast Missouri State University and both her MS and PhD in Justice Studies from Arizona State University. Her research interests include adult and juvenile corrections, juvenile justice, women and crime, and public policy. She has worked on several research projects funded by the National Institute of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education, the Arizona Department of Corrections, the Arizona Institute for Criminal Justice, and the Arizona Department of Youth Treatment and Rehabilitation, and she has been a consultant to RAND.

    Jerome H. Skolnick is Claire Clements Dean Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley, adjunct professor of law at New York University School of Law, and codirector of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice. Recently, he served as chair of the National Academy of Science's Committee on Law and Justice, and he is a past president of the American Society of Criminology. He is the author of numerous articles on police, courts, and criminal justice policy. His work, Justice Without Trial: Law Enforcement in a Democratic Society (1966) is now a scholarly classic. Politics of Protest (1969) was perhaps his most widely read book, selling several hundred thousand paperback copies. His The New Blue Line (1986) inspired the present volume.

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