The formation of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) as an organization and my election as its President date back to May 10, 1994; our Washington offices did not open until my arrival in D.C. in January, 1996. But the genesis of Drug Court Movement dates from the active organizing of drug court activists, sometimes called the “Coalition of Drug Court Judges”, and our lobbying on behalf of drug courts in 1993/94.
1996: MY ARRIVAL IN D.C.: A WINTER WONDERLAND
My beginnings at NADCP were inauspicious to say the least. I arrived in D.C. on the first Wednesday in January of 1996. After two days of continuous snow, it stopped long enough for my plane to touch down. Almost immediately it began to snow again and continued for two days (the newspaper claimed it to be the worst snow storm in 97 years). That first night, I wandered the streets of Alexandria in my heavy winter jacket, running shoes, and jeans. I walked for miles. Alexandria’s streets were empty, with the snow falling quietly on the clock on Polk Street. I was mesmerized. For one evening at least, I was in a private winter reverie, marveling at the events that had brought me to that place.
1992/93: MY INTRODUCTION TO WASHINGTON FEVER
It was 1992 and politics was in the air. My wife had connections with Bill Clinton through a close friend of a friend of Bill. It sounded funny even then, but being a friend of a friend of Bill (an FFOB) was considered a big deal at the time. My wife’s friend, in casual conversation, asked me about my work in drug courts and whether I had any ideas or recommendations in regards to the criminal justice system.
Of course the answer was I had plenty of ideas that I’d love to share with the Clinton Administration. I had started the Oakland Drug Court in 1990 as a new judge, having been assigned to the existing Drug Calendar in the year 1990 by Presiding Judge Horace Wheatley. I watched countless individuals enter our drug court and make extraordinary progress in our Drug Court Program over the next two years (over one thousand drug offenders entered the program in 1991, its first full year).
I became a true believer. I found that by communicating directly with the drug user, as part of a drug court team, I provided the participants with an important source of support and guidance. Surprisingly, I too experienced an unexpected benefit, the satisfaction of seeing the drug offender in a new way, as a human being in need of help. Help that we were prepared to provide to the extent that our meager resources allowed.
My FFOB promised to get my policy recommendations to Bill himself. Of course with that kind of assurance, I set to work immediately on my policy statements. It turned out to be five policy recommendations and six months of writing. I made the policy statements short, figuring that President wouldn’t have much time to read (just two pages each).