Office of Justice Programs (DOJ) Releases Fact Sheet on Drug Courts

So-called “juvenile specialty courts” have developed at a quick pace over the past decade, with drug courts being the most pervasive.  Typically established by local judges, these specialty dockets are intended to provide children with individualized attention in the kind of non-adversarial setting that no longer exists in most delinquency courtrooms.

Professor Dan Filler (Drexel) (photo on left) wrote an excellent article in the Iowa Law Review on this trend, which can be downloaded here.

In one of the North Carolina counties in which I practice, there is a “youth treatment court” that provides intensive supervision for juveniles struggling with drug addiction.  It is presided over by a judge, but the only other parties present are the juvenile probation officer and the prosecutor.  My understanding is that the approach is more empathic than in delinquency court, but as I have yet to observe a session, I really don’t know.  Please share your own experiences with these courts in the comments.

These thoughts came to mind because the Office of Justice Programs, in collaboration with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the National Institute of Justice, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, has released a new fact sheet, “Drug Courts.” It examines adult and juvenile drug court program models and OJP’s support of adult and juvenile drug courts. It also provides facts, research findings, and additional resources regarding these courts.

Here is an excerpt from the report:

Drug courts are specialized court docket programs that target criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders, and parents with pending child welfare cases who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems. Although drug courts vary in target population and resources, programs are generally managed by a multidisciplinary team including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, community corrections, social workers and treatment service professionals. Support from stakeholders representing law enforcement, the family and the community is encouraged through participation in hearings, programming and events like graduation.

Adult drug courts employ a program designed to reduce drug use relapse and criminal recidivism among defendants and offenders through risk and needs assessment, judicial interaction, monitoring and supervision, graduated sanctions and incentives, treatment and various rehabilitation services.

Juvenile drug courts apply a similar program model that is tailored to the needs of juvenile offenders. These programs provide youth and their families with counseling, education and other services to: promote immediate intervention, treatment and structure; improve level of functioning; address problems that may contribute to drug use; build skills that increase their ability to lead drug- and crime-free lives; strengthen the family’s capacity to offer structure and guidance; and promote accountability for all involved.

Family drug courts emphasize treatment for parents with substance use disorders to aid in the reunification and stabilization of families affected by parental drug use. These programs apply the adult drug court model to cases entering the child welfare system that include allegations of child abuse or neglect in which substance abuse is identified as a contributing factor. Program goals include: helping the parent to become emotionally, financially and personally self-sufficient; promoting the development of parenting and coping skills adequate for serving as an effective parent on a day-to-day basis; and providing services to their children.

Other types of drug courts have emerged to address issues specific to unique populations including tribal, driving while intoxicated (DWI), campus, reentry, veterans and mental health courts.

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About Tamar Birckhead

School of Law
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