San Francisco Parole Reentry Court Judge Jeffrey Tauber (ret.), presents a progoram participant with an award

San Francisco Parole Reentry Court Judge Jeffrey Tauber (ret.), presents a program participant with an award


California’s PROP. 47 did many things and did most of them right. According to Stanford Law School’s “One Year Progress Report”‘ released on Oct 29th, as to PROP 47 cases; recidvism is down, incarceration is down, felony charges are down, and court and
custody costs are down.This is what criminal justice reform looks like.

The whole world should be watching as Prop. 47 is implemented. It reduces drug possession offenses and relatively minor property crimes to misdemeanors. It allows those with felony records to petittion the court to reduce their offenses to misdemeanors (and dismiss the offense where appropriate), opening up new opportunities to those stigmatized with a felony conviction. It saves Caifornia taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, freeing jails and prisons for those incorrigible and dangerous offenders who need to be there. It decriminalizes drug possession without legalizing serious drug use. Continue reading

TO BE PUBLISHED IN 2016: “A Personal History of NADCP and the Drug Court Movement: 1990-2001″

Judge Jeffrey Tauber

Judge Jeffrey Tauber, ret.


The excerpts from the Book.”A Personal History of NADCP and the Drug Court movement; 1990-2001″, by Jeffrey Tauber, is available on this website, directly below this article (and In the box on the right  marked “Book Updates”).

A Final Version is planned for Publication in 2016 (that will be approximately twice the length).  Check in with RCS in the coming months for more information on how to obtain copies.

With the completion of this excerpted version, I am editing the book to make corrections (and additions and subtractions) as appropriate. I would encourage anyone who has a different version of the events described here to contact me at this website to provide information that might make this book more complete and accurate.

[This publication is not authorized by NADCP or any other organization and its contents are the sole responsibility of the author, Jeffrey Tauber. Mr. Tauber's honorific title as NADCP President Emeritus for life, bestows no offical status to this or any other work produced by him].


Being the best advocacy organization and lobbying outfit in town takes you just so far. In late 1997, I began to advocate for the creation of the NATIONAL DRUG COURT INSTITUTE (NDCI), that would move NADCP towards a more science and research based approach.

 Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey, Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson, Former Chair of NADCP, (now U.S. Senator) Claire McCaskill, and NADCP Founder Judge Jeffrey Tauber speak at Ceremony announcing formation og National Drug Court Institute at the White House, Dec. 10, 1997

Ceremony at Roosevelt Room of White House Announcing Establishment of the NADCP National Drug Court Institute (NDCI). In photo, Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey, Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson, Former Chair of NADCP, (now U.S. Senator) Claire McCaskill, and NADCP Founder Judge Jeffrey Tauber; Dec. 10, 1997


I was to be introduced to Martin Sheen, who was scheduled to be our celebrity speaker at the close of the D.C. Conference of 98’. I found him sitting over coffee with another man, before Martin was to go on stage. The man looked familiar. I thought him a D.A. or Probation officer from back home, in Oakland, California. His name was Tom Gorham and he was an associate of Dr. Davida Coady, an epidemiologist who ran the Options, Inc., treatment program in Berkeley.

Tom cheerfully introduced himself as a frequent flyer on Alameda County Courts’ Drug and Alcohol Merry-Go-Round. It was only then that I realized that this impressive well-dressed person was the same man who had appeared slovenly and unkempt in court on drug and/or alcohol charges on dozens of occasions over the years. He had only recently found sobriety through Judge Carol Brosnahan’s Berkeley Rehabilitation Program run through Options, Inc. He had graduated from Options, Inc. and was currently a counselor, under the direction of Dr. Davida Coady.

The truly remarkable part of this story, is that Tom went on to become the CEO of Options, received his Doctorate in Rehabilitation Counseling, and was married to his mentor, Dr. Davida Coady, by then Drug Court Judge Carol Brosnahan at her home in Berkeley.

Though an extraordinary tale, it made me think of the tens of thousands of offenders (if not hundreds of thousands) that are misdiagnosed by judges, district attorneys, defense counsel, probation officers and treatment providers. It reminded me that I, nor my brethren were seers, and that I often made serious errors of judgment about an offender’s potential for successful rehabilitation.

Finally, it reinforced my commitment to involve NADCP in developing scientific approaches to our courts. So they could do a better job at diagnosing the levels of drug abuse and criminality of drug court participants, and provide for their rehabilitation. It was in an odd way, a wake up call, reminding me that the courts needed to be science-based, and systems-oriented (or what is now called evidence-based) in their sentencing decisions, relying on scientific tools and analysis to assist in doing this critical work.


From almost the beginning of NADCP, I had pictured some arm of the organization dedicated to academic endeavors, evaluations, and research projects. It was a side of NADCP that was clearly missing.

After our ’97 Conference in D.C., I took stock of what had been accomplished. NADCP was clearly on the map in D.C. It had supporters both in the leadership of both democratic and republican parties. We had more than doubled federal drug court funding over the previous year; we were increasing the number of drug courts exponentially; we were creating partnerships with state organizations and judicial and executive agencies, our conferences and mentor site trainings were breaking new ground and pulling the field together, and now we had our own offices and an expanded staff.

The one area where we had not made much headway was in establishing NADCP as a source for credible research and scientific information. We also weren’t doing the sophisticated training and education in the field that we needed to. To some extent, research, education, and information resources were flowing to American University’s Justice Program, because it had a university’s imprimatur. We needed to somehow create our own certificate of approval.

Continue reading


There is a time when riding a wave, you reach the crest, and are on top of the world in a matter of speaking. That’s what it felt like to be leading the drug court movement in the late 90s. Getting ready for the dismount, or in my case, my exit from NADCP/NDCI was as difficult as the ride itself.


Senior NDCI Judicial Trainers, Judges Bill Meyer, Jeff Tauber, Robert Russell, and Susan Finlay, singing off-key at graduation dinner held at D.C. restaurant, La Cologne



By 1999, the Drug Court field was akin to a giant wave. It was my 4th year running NADCP from D.C., I spent much of my time crisscrossing the country laying the ground work for a national criminal justice reform movement. I was hanging on for dear life, the most exhausting and exhilarating period of my career.

As the founder of both NADCP and NDCI, I believed I was leading the most far-reaching criminal justice reform movement in more than a generation. I was making major decisions and leading in the development of new initiatives, driving the organization toward a vision that existed, if only in my own mind. It was also becoming obvious to me that I was chronically exhausted and that my physical efforts couldn’t last. But I felt blessed to be the leader of NADCP, at the time that the Drug Court Movement blossomed.

I had accepted the greatest challenge of my life. And I appeared to be succeeding. There was an explosion of interest in NADCP and Drug Courts. To my mind, that was a causal factor in the extraordinary change in attitude taking place within the criminal justice system and society in general, toward drug users over the next decade.

According to the DOJ’s National Institute of Justice, at the end of the field’s first five-year period (1989-1993) there were a total of 19 existing drug courts.  From 1994, when NADCP was founded, until the end of 1998 (a second five year period), 329 new drug courts had been established (for a grand total of 347 drug courts, or an 18 fold increase over the initial five year pre-NADCP period).


Long term, my vision was of NDCI taking a leadership role in the larger criminal justice reform movement, and setting up long-term projects and hopefully reform institutes to deal with such critical issues as systemic approaches to drug abuse and criminality, alternatives to prison and incarceration for all offenders, and the decriminalization of the drug user.

NDCI had received a $ 2 million grant to spend as we and ONDCP thought appropriate. 1999 was our opportunity to take off and overwhelm the field with innovative science based projects. And we did just that. From the first, I saw the development of NDCI, our Education, Scholarship and Research based arm, as a means of shifting NADCP’s gears from practitioner advocacy toward a more credible, science and research based policy making institution. Continue reading


By the end of 1999, NADCP/NDCI had become a Washington Institution, and the undisputed leader of the Drug Court World. In 2000, we expanded NADCP/NDCI’s influence into other criminal justice reform areas. Most importantly we achieved acceptance and support from all fifty state chief justices in a unanimous resolution that institutionalized drug courts across the nation. At the same time, my tenure as NADCP/NDCI’s leader was coming to a close.

Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey receives award from NADCP Founder Judge Jeffrey Tauber at 5th Annual National Conference

Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is presented with an award by NADCP Founder Judge Jeffrey Tauber, for his support in starting NDCI, at the 5th Annual NADCP National Conference.


NADCP and NDCI had an extraordinary year in 2000. I designed and supervised the first Discipline-Based Judicial Officer Trainings which served as a model for other Discipline-Based Trainings to come (receiving a 6.57 on a 1 to 7 rating continuum). With West managing the non-judicial trainings, NDCI delivered twelve discipline-based, video-intensive weeklong drug court training programs in 2000, for over 600 practitioners from 47 states and nations abroad.

Based on the success of the Discipline Based Trainings, the Department of Justice funded nineteen three-part workshops for fifty-seven (57) jurisdictions across the nation (each jurisdictional team composed of six to eight members), that proved to be nearly as successful.

Publications were being distributed across the nation on an average of one per month. The Research Agenda was moving forward in the development of standardized tools for drug court researchers and practitioners. NADCP’s reached out to other fields and their practitioners and achieved a high level of collaboration and cooperation across the nation. Participants at our National Conference totaled 3,300 (a number we were not to repeat for nearly a decade).

In 2012, Professor Kathleen Halle, of Auburn University, devoted her book on exceptional non-profit organizations, “How Information Matters”, entirely to the startup of NADCP, the “Champion” of NGOs”. She found NADCP “to be the best among extraordinary organizations; “whose structure, initiatives, strategies, and planning define excellence in the non-profit world.”


I believed that we were at the center of a movement with broader parameters than the drug court model. The more I became aware of the realities of the criminal justice system, the more I became convinced that NADCP/NDCI could provide assistance and guidance to other related courts and fields that were beginning to develop. A plethora of specialty courts were being modeled after the drug court that would be in need of assistance (i.e., DUI, Reentry, Domestic Violence, Elder, Homeless, as well as, Family and Juvenile Drug Courts).

It was obvious that drug court models would be most effective if they reached those most in need, many of which were in state and federal prison systems. I was particularly interested in the possibility of the drug court model being used with non-drug offenders. I saw the development of NDCI, our science and research based arm, as a means of shifting gears toward broader national policy goals, as well as trainings with more sophisticated and effective techniques. [Our practitioner based trainings and monograph reflected that perspective.]

Continue reading


2001 was a difficult year. The only good part for me was that I was weaning myself away from my 80 hour workweek. I had my music to return to and for that I was grateful. I played my tenor saxophone and harmonica in a number of bands around the D.C. area (and on many a night, played solo jazz saxophone to the seagulls on the Alexandria Pier).

The conflict and duality of NADCP Founding President Judge Jeffrey Tauber

Expressing the duality of law and music in a life; NADCP Founding President Jeffrey Tauber (Photo Art by Frank Tapia)



NADCP had become the organization I had dreamed of building, an accepted Institution, a part of the Washington Establishment. I intended to develop projects dealing with Reentry from Prison, DUI Offenses, and Sentencing Systems that went beyond the Drug Court idiom. But the reality was that since the 2000 Conference in San Francisco, I was virtually handcuffed by the Board, under constant scrutiny, with almost no opportunity to move ahead on new projects; in essence a lame-duck President.

Before the end of year 2000 it became clear that senior staff members had wrested control of the dialogue with the Board, and were not going to let go until they got what they were after, my resignation. I decided it was best for me to concede the inevitable and accept “early retirement”.

I submitted my resignation from the Presidency of NADCP, to take effect in early 2001. I would remain as President at least in name, until a new President took over. I also co-chaired a committee screening for my successor.

I knew that West needed to stay at NADCP and that his outsized charm and drive would keep NADCP as a major presence in the field, but his possible selection as a successor was never in issue. There were too many fresh accusations floating around about his stewardship of NDCI and he was too young and new to the job to vie for that position. I never did get to the bottom of the rumors swirling around West. At the time, I believed them to be spread by jealous colleagues that were piqued by his quick ascension to crown prince of NADCP.

When I first told West of my intention to resign, he appeared stricken. He argued against it and when I wouldn’t budge, he proposed that the two of us set up our own organization. I was moved by his offer, but I knew that it would be a mistake. I didn’t want to further weaken NADCP by removing its two mainstays, (and truthfully I didn’t want to compete with or diminish the organization I had worked so hard to create). I remained on the Board of NADCP as an Emeritus member, to monitor the organization, and help West stay on his leadership track.


My last significant responsibility at NADCP was to assist in the selection of its new CEO (the board decided that my successor would not be a President, but a more malleable CEO). I screened dozens of résumés with members of a Board selection committee. Most of the applicants appeared to be limited in experience, expertise, and background.

We ultimately came down to a single applicant who appeared to have the drug court background required (she had been Gary, Indiana’s first Drug Court Judge), and had a promising low-key managerial style more in keeping with NADCP’s increasingly bureaucratic structure. With Judge Karen Freeman-Wilson’s ascension to the leadership of NADCP, I began to look for other avenues for my energies. Continue reading


Sometimes life gives a person the opportunity to do something truly extraordinary. I saw an opportunity, took it; accepting the challenge, risking all, sacrificing much, to move the drug court field as far as possible.


Reentry Court participants congratulate first Reentry Court graduation.


Drug Courts (and their progeny Problem-Solving Courts) have had a profound effect upon the criminal justice system and the attitudes of those in it, as well as the media, and the public in general

I think it fair to suggest that the reform movements of the past decade, to decriminalize drug use, turn offenders away from prisons towards alternative sentencing, and emphasize reentry resources, all owe their success (at least in part) to the positive environment that drug courts have helped create over the past twenty five years.

There could be no better testimonial as to how far drug courts have come in changing the national dialogue than President Obama’s special reference to “Drug Courts”, in his major criminal justice reform speech of July 14th 2015, “We should invest in alternatives to prison, like Drug Courts and treatment and probation.”

NADCP itself, waxes eloquent when it talks about the progress it and the Drug Court Movement have made over the past twenty years (see: “Today with 2,734 Drug Courts and another 1,122 problem-solving courts (mental health courts, community courts, reentry courts, DWI courts, etc.) in operation, NADCP has forever changed the face of the justice system. As the premiere national resource for Drug Court practitioners, NADCP established a specialized Institute in December 1997. Today, the “National Drug Court Institute” is the preeminent source for comprehensive training and cutting-edge technical assistance to the entire Drug Court Field. Since its inception, the institute has trained 36,641 drug court professionals in all 50 states and U.S. territories as well as seven countries and developed 37 publications, disseminating them to 456,166 professionals worldwide.”

NADCP has admirers in the academic world as well; Professor Kathleen Hale of Auburn University in her book, “How Information Matters (Georgetown University Press, 2011) focuses entirely on NADCP, the “Champion” Non-Profit Organization in Washington D.C. Professor Hale describes the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) as “the best among extraordinary organizations; whose structure, initiatives, strategies, and planning define excellence in the non-profit world.”

Continue reading

Using Reentry-Drug Court as a counterweight to long Prison Terms

THE BEST OF: The following article, published on Feb. 13,2012, uses a Watertown sentencing as an example of how drug court can be used to keep the prison population down, or increase it.

April 28, 2014

Screen shot 2012-11-19 at 9.19.12 AMSomething caught my eye as I was reading newsclips from around the nation. A small item from the Watertown Daily Times (NY). It read:

A Watertown man was sentenced to state prison Thursday after admitting in Jefferson County Court that he violated his Drug Court contract. Paul L. Arndt Jr., 44, was sentenced to 113 to 4 years in prison for violating terms of the substance abuse rehabilitation program that is designed to serve as an alternative to incarceration. He was referred to the program in April 2009 after admitting he violated probation. He was sentenced to five years’ probation in August 2007 after pleading guilty in May 2007 to fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property for taking radiators that had been stolen from a Watertown business and selling them at a Syracuse recycling center. Information about how he violated Drug Court was not available.

Putting aside the issue of whether the probation violation in question was a particularly serious or dangerous one, I would suggest that sending a drug court participant to prison for a substantial term is almost never good criminal justice policy, good use of government funds, or good rehabilitation &/or treatment strategies . There are more than a few drug courts, that quickly fail drug court participants and spirit them away for substantial prison terms. It may be time to revisit the rationality behind such scenarios. Unless the new offense is one involving violence or the threat of violence, is prison ever a sensible response to a drug court violation?

I have suggested in a recent article (see:”Front-loading court interventions”)  that “judges may use their jurisdiction to sentence the felon to prison as part of a court-ordered treatment program, with the understanding that the offender is to undergo treatment before being returned to court for re-sentencing”. The idea is an old one, first described in a monograph written in 1999 by myself and present NADCP CEO West Huddleston (see “Reentry Drug Courts”);  Front-loaded prison reentry programs (involving short custodial terms and a return to court supervision and treatment), are a last resort after the offender has committed serious and multiple violations of a drug court’s requirements.

Numerous states have developed drug court as an alternative sentence of last resort before substantial prison terms are ordered. Governors  such as Christy of New Jersey and Deal of Georgia are calling for special drug courts to give the offender a last chance to succeed. Reentry-Drug Courts, (or simply Reentry courts) need to be put in place for the high-risk offender, where a short prison or other custodial sentence is a last resort (typically one to six months), before a long prison term is ordered.

Remember, the best way to reduce prison recidivism is not to put an offender into prison in the first place. But if there is no viable alternative to prison, use it in a rational and graduated manner, with a brief stay that holds out the promise of rehabilitation and an early return to the community.


Reentry Court Myths and Realities

IMG_0999April 14, 2014

Sometimes you need to break away from writing drug court history and blow some Island Jazz. This article was written in 2011 and has received its share of compliments. In case you missed it the first time, here it is again, MYTHS AND REALITIES OF REENTRY COURTS

MYTH #1: There’s not much interest nationally in federal funding for Reentry Courts

Local jurisdictions often have neither the jurisdiction nor the resources to deal with parolees, a traditional state responsibility. However a growing number of states are actively developing state wide, locally run, reentry court systems, as they realize the value of these community-based courts. (IN, OH, MO, TX, and CA have taken the lead in developing state-wide systems). The DOJ can provide resources, information and educational opportunities to assist interested states.

MYTH #2: Reentry Court is just like Drug Court with a different population.

Reentry Court turns out to be a very different animal than Drug Court. Its population is made up of high-risk offenders, who have been institutionalized for substantial periods of time. The most significant realization I’ve made as San Francisco’s Reentry Court Judge, is that parolees require far more services, incentives, and flexibility than traditional Drug Courts; that creating a community among court staff and participants is critical to parolees who have lost most sense of belonging. (over the initial 12 weekly sessions, participants failed to appear for court 1% of time)

MYTH #3: Reentry Courts detect violations, responding with sanctions and return to prison

The purpose of the Reentry Court is to keep the offender from reoffending and returning to prison. We are only peripherally engaged in the creation of model citizens. A heavy-handed approach to technical violations and minor offenses (including drug abuse) does not work well with this population. Encouragement from the bench, incentives, and the creation of court-based communities provide a far more effective approach. This still requires the active engagement of the parolee in community-based activities (job training, education, volunteer service, substance abuse and cognitive behavioral treatments) from the day they enter the reentry court. Professor Ed Latessa of the University of Cincinatti, (Dean of reentry research), warns that parolees need to be engaged in structured activity for 40 to 70% of their day, and that those programs that address 4 or more of the criminogenic needs of the offender do twice as well as those that don’t.

MYTH #4: Reentry Court success means substantially reducing drug abuse among parolees.

If we successfully deal with a criminal’s substance abuse problem, we may end up with a clean and sober criminal. Research suggests that less than 50% of parolees have a substantial drug abuse problem, so dealing with substance abuse as the main focus of Reentry Court may be  a mistake. According to the research, drug abuse is not in the first tier of criminogenic needs for the high-risk offender. Dealing with Criminal Attitudes, Criminal Personality, Criminal Friends and Associates, and Family and Parenting issues are generally considered the most important treatment needs. Unfortunately, the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapies, that have proved to be most successful in treating these issues, is lacking across much of the nation.