Drug Court is an intensive, highly structured program designed to identify and treat offenders whose criminal activities are generally related to substance abuse. The program places offenders in counseling and provides structure in that person’s life. Accountability is provided in part by a probation officer who checks on the person’s progress through home and office visits. In addition, the participant must attend periodic (typically biweekly) court sessions during which their treatment compliance and drug testing is monitored. Drug Court’s mission is to break the vicious cycle of drug addiction by offering the tools to stay clean. Those tools include, among other things, counseling, educational and employment assistance.
Q. Which offenders are eligible to participate?
A. Once an offender has been identified as a substance abuser, he or she is screened for eligibility. Although first offender addicts are admitted into the program, the extreme majority of participants are multiple offenders who have been through more traditional treatment programs in the past and yet have continued to recycle through the criminal justice system.
Q. Who is not eligible to participate?
A. People can be ineligible to participate in drug court if they are classified as a violent offender, drug dealer, currently charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling, are charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol that resulted in the death of another person, a person who is not chemically dependent, or a person ineligible for a community or intermediate punishment through the state’s structured sentencing system. Each local drug court program may establish other existing criteria.
Q. What is the Drug Court Team?
A. The Drug Court team consists of a judge, district attorney, a defense attorney, a probation officer , the coordinator or case manager, and a treatment representative.
Q. What services are available to the offender?
A. Individual and group outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment, 12-step programs, GED, literacy classes, continued education services, budgeting, vocational rehabilitation, human resources development, and parenting classes are among the services available to many county programs. A case manager supervises an offender’s overall treatment, helping him or her stay on track. The case manager assists with referrals to other agencies to help meet the offender’s education, employment and other needs.
Q. How long does Drug Court last?
A. One to two years. Staying in the program depends on how well the offender deals with the structure that is added to his or her life. An offender is normally required to be in court on a biweekly basis, and to arrive on time and stay for the entire drug court session. If the offender is not doing well, the judge may order increased drug testing, more meeting attendance, a short jail time, or other creative graduated sanctions. The alcohol/drug treatment component of the program at a minimum includes weekly treatment meetings, weekly 12-step meetings such as AA/NA meetings and frequent and random drug testing.
Q. What are some of the rules?
A. A participant of Drug Treatment Court is required to attend all meetings and court sessions and be on time. Failure to appear in court may result in a warrant for arrest being issued. Abstinence from alcohol and other drugs is an ongoing requirement. Failure to comply with rules of the program will result in the imposition of immediate consequences. Obviously, no drugs, alcohol or weapons are allowed. Behavior that disrupts the treatment of others in the program is not tolerated. Many drug courts have implemented dress codes for court attendance.
Q. How is someone terminated from the program?
A. An offender may be terminated from Drug Court through voluntary withdrawal, new felony charges, tampered urine screens, or not complying with the program’s rules and guidelines.
Q. How does an offender graduate from the program?
A. An offender must successfully complete all phases of the program, have a significant period of clean time prior to graduation, have paid all fines and program costs.