"Today when I think of reentry court, I am reminded that nearly every offender sentenced to time in custody will return to the community from whence they came. And thus, every sentencing court is in fact, a reentry court, creating a pathway for the offender’s reentry into society." -Jeff Tauber

Pre-entry Courts in the Age of Reentry

Pre-Entry Court is a county probation-based reentry court and an advanced next generation drug court, . Typically, non-violent drug offenders are placed on  probation, with a state prison sentence suspended, and the offender ordered to attend, participate, and complete an in-custody treatment program as a condition of probation ( for those legally inclined, “execution of sentence is suspended”).  In essence, rather than dealing with the  offender after they serve a prison term (with all its dibilitating consequences) they are given their last best opportunity to enter a “pre-entry court” (or a “before entry to  prison court”) and avoid a formal prison commitment.

For example,  County Jail-Based Reentry Courts offer the possibility of reducing state prison populations with their extraordinary costs,while providing the serious non-violent offender, the  seamless  monitoring, treatment, and rehabilitative services of  a comprehensive drug court.  (It can be confusing at first, to realize that there are two kinds of reentry courts, one dealing with prison reentry, the other with those returning from extended jail or other probation-based custodial programs.)

Optimally, Pre-entry Courts (typically county-jail based reentry courts)  engage the offender at the time of plea and assessment through sentencing, entry into, and completion from an in-custody rehabilitation program. When released from custodial status into the community, the pre-entry court judge and team continue to monitor the probationer through progress hearings and finally program graduation.

Ultimately, a pre-entry court will be part of a Next Generation Drug Court System, providing comprehensive drug court services  to returnees from jail, other county-based custodial programs,  probation revocations, prison (and more traditional drug court participants, who typically do not receieve  an immediate custodial sentence). The emergence of fledgling  pre-entry courts, while focused mostly on those with substance abuse problems, is an important development in criminal justice reform, and arguably the best way to reduce both prison over-crowding and prison reentry failure, whether offenders are drug involved or not. [for a unique example of a pre-entry court, see Dallas SAFPF Reentry Court]


Celebrating A Decade: How Reentry/Drug Court Got Here

Anyone at all aware of criminal justice issues, knows that 2010 will be the beginning of a seismic change in the criminal justice system. There is immense national concern about prison overcrowding, prisoner reentry into the community, and the need to cut funding to prisons. Your Drug Court should already be a part of  your community’s  2010 “reentry task force. Federal and state funding is pouring into reentry processes, and Drug Court stands on the precipice of becoming the next generation comprehensive Drug Court, the Reentry/Drug Court. At the the 10 year Anniversary of the CCJ Resolution22/COSCA Resolution IV , it might be well to remember the people, organizations,  and historical  documents that are making this impossible dream possible.

It wasn’t necessarily going to work out this way. The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) weren’t terribly fond of special courts. They had a bad rap for consuming resources and creating judicial fiefdoms. When Drug Court came along twenty yeas ago, there was scepticism and even hostility from state bureaucracies and territorial paranoia from some drug court judges. But then it began to turn around. By the time the Clinton Administration had come on board, CCJ, COSCA and their partner, The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) had changed course and begun an effort to work with and provide guidance to the drug court field. Califronia, Florida and New York led the way, with limited financial, educational and technical assistance. But most states stood on the sidelines, reluctant to take a chance on the new kid on the block.

It wasn’t until 1999 that things really began to change. California’s  State Court Administrator, Bill Vickrey, the newly installed President of COSCA, had shown a willingness to work with drug court practitioners in his own state; resourcing educational conferences and trainings, finding financial support to start over 100 California Drug Courts, and encouraging Drug Court Judges to take the lead in developing a powerful statewide grassroots movement. Dan Becker, then Utah’s State Court Administrator, co-chair of the CCJ/COSCA Drug Court task force, put it  this way  in a 2001 interview , “It started with an initiative by Bill Vickery, when he was the President of COSCA, to begin looking at emerging policy questions that Administrators and Chief Justices need to be concerned about, that put us in the position of anticipating issues rather than reacting to new issues.” Bill Vickrey and California Chief Justice Ron George (as well as others) took the lead in advocating for a joint CCJ/COSCA Resolution endorsing drug courts and the newly emerging courts to be known as problem-solving courts. What is truely extraordinary was the fact that all 50 Chief Justices and all 50 State Court Administrators went on to unanimously adopt that joint resolution.

In the 10 years since the “Resolution”was adopted, a new dynamic has been created within the criminal justice system. With the highest level of state court administration committed to the problem-solving model, drug courts and its progeny have enjoyed a ligitimacy that has translated into increased funding, political influence and respect that had eluded them in the past.  Recently,  The National Association of Drug Court Professionals elected Missouri Chief Justice Ray Price as its Board President, while  a 2009 CCJ/COSCA Resolution reaffirmed its endorsement of drug courts, calling for  the federal government to fund drug courts at the $250 million level. There are Drug Courts in every state,  state program coordinators almost everywhere, and new problem-solving courts proliferating. Significantly, the California legislature has recently passed a “Parolee Reentry Court Program”, the biggest and most ambitious reentry/drug court project ever, funded with $10 million, to be administered by the California Administrative Office of the Courts. We should take this opportunity at the start of the new year to reflect on what has been accomplished over the past ten years, before we move on to the next-generation, comprehensive drug court, the reentry/drug court model.

NADCP Introduces Resource Center: “Reentry Court Solutions”

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) made this important announcement in an email yesterday to thousands of its drug court and  related practitioners/subscribers. “Designed to provide critical information to those interested in effective Reentry Court strategies, Reentry Court Solutions is a new national resource center dedicated to all things Reentry Courts.”  Judge Jeffrey Tauber (ret.), Director of “Reentry Court Solutions” described his satisfaction with the the Resource Center’s first days. “I would like to thank NADCP for their collaboration and support in getting “Reentry Court Solutions” off the ground. We’ve had hundreds of contacts from all over the country and across the world. I believe that the launching of a “National Reentry Court Resource Center” marks the beginning of a new focus on the importance of the reentry court model in the criminal justice system”.

Conference of Chief Justices Urge Funding For Drug Courts

The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ)  and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) have recently called for greatly increased federal funding for drug courts.  At their Annual meeting in August, 2009, Resolution No.3 passed unanimously , reaffirming support for drug and problem-solving courts and calling for passage of  NADCP’s $250 million appropriations request then be considered by the Congress. Interestingly, CCJ Resolution No.3 once again specifically states that ” drug courts have proven to be the most effective strategy for reducing drug use and criminal recidivism among criminal offenders with substance abuse and addiction….”. That statement (appearing verbatim in the 2000 resolution) would appear to  support the position that reentry courts (the next generation of drug court), needs to receive substantial federal funding as well.

For the language of CCJ Resolution No.3  go to: Resolution 3

Also see CCJ/COSCA Resolution 22 ( passed unanimously in 2000)

CSAT Reentry Funding

BREAKING NEWS: NOV.2, 2009

A $13 million grant program was announced by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment today. The grant’s purpose is to support 17  Juvenile and Adult Offender Reentry Programs across the nation. The funds appear to be aimed at persons leaving correctional settings, although not necessarily focused on reentry drug court as a grantee partner ( neither do they appear to exclude them.)

Further information can be found at: CSAT REENTRY GRANT

Funding Alert: California

NOV.3,2009: BREAKING NEWS

An extraordinary development for  California reentry court programs has come to our attention. The legislature has  targeted both stimulus money and and other federal and state funds to reduce reliance on prisons through four innovative programs:

  • 10 million dollars of federal  funds will  be distributed through a Parolee Reentry Accountability Program to support reentry courts.
  • $45 million of Federal funds will be distributed in support of evidence based supervision of felony offenders.
  • An undisclosed amount of funds resulting from savings in reduced felony revocation and recidivism rates will be allocated to probation  departments based on their success in reducing recidivism.
  • Under the California Risk Assessment Pilot Project, recidivism and revocations will be tracked over a three year period

This exemplary state effort will be under the direction of Adminisrative Office of the Courts Director Bill Vickrey and its program coordinator will be Judge Roger Warren (ret.), former President of the Natuional Center for State Courts.

Additional Information will be provided as it becomes available.

Spotlight on Missouri

Missouri is one the few truely innovative states in the reentry court field, with both prison and jail based reentry courts (also called reintegration courts). According to Missouri Director of Probation Services, Scott Johnson,  a single state agency that handles both probation and parole functions makes political and resource decisions less problematic. [According to Scott, over half the states have adopted a combined probation/parole state agency structure in recent years; a critical structure for your consideration]

Two programs provide split sentencing for prisoners. The first provides a four month prison term for drug abusers, requiring them to engage in a serious treatment program in prison before they are released to reentry courts and probation supervision. The second split sentence program allows all elligible offenders with a 5 years or greater sentence to be placed in a two year prison treatment program, to be released to reentry courts after that period.

The three formal pilot programs are in Kansas City, Columbia, and St.Charles. Other counties have begun to pilot reentry courts  on a less formal basis..

St. Charles County has an innovative program targeting all offenders eligible for probation, who would otherwise be sent to state prison. It is funded by the Department of Probation and Parole, and uses participant baseline data to confirm required reductions in prison sentences .  The program itself sentences offenders to treatment in jail, with in-custody offenders supervised by the drug/reentry court judge and personnel. Participants are typically released from custody within several weeks of placement and given the opportunity to be part of the out-of-custody program under the same court’s monitoring.

Missouri contact: Rick Morrisey; [email protected]  

 

ON MY Mind I: Overcoming Our Prison Addiction

Twenty years ago, along with other drug court pioneers, I helped build a national reform movement that today claims over twenty-five hundred drug and other problem-solving courts. And while I am truely proud  of our successes,  the truth is that the criminal justice system remains overly-cautious, limiting drug courts to the less severe drug abuser and/or the less serious criminal, reaching perhaps only 5% of drug offenders.  This makes little sense as drug court’s scientifically proven effectiveness lies with the high-risk non-violent substance abusers who make up more than 50% of prisoners (Marlowe).

We live in a country plainly addicted to prison; with the highest imprisonment rate in the world, a prison population that has increased 700% since 1970,  over 75% imprisoned for non-violent offenses, and 50% returned to prison within three years of release.  It’s not that prison isn’t  necessary , but that we’ve become habituated to its use, whether appropriate or not . We are just coming out of the addict’s denial phase,  and beginning to accept the fact that our overdependence on prison has catastropic social and financial consequences. But as with all recovering addicts, there is reason to hope for a better future . The reentry court is clearly not the whole answer to our prison addiction (for example, it will also take dedicated partners in a host of rehabilitation services), but as the evolutionary next-generation drug court, there is excellent reason to believe reentry court will be part of the solution. [see  Policy Papers, for a full exposition]

Contact: [email protected]

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