"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

COMMENTARY

WHY DRUG ADDICTION IS SIMPLER THAN YOU THOUGHT    A five minute video, based on the book by Johann Hari, “Chasing the Scream”, was put out by Patreon (they welcome your contributions through their website, Patreon.com) It describes the causes of addiciton and the “Cure” in a clear and simple way for the lay person (as … Read moreCOMMENTARY

COMMENTARY

                                ALTERNATIVES TO THE AMERICAN “RETRIBUTION” PRISON MODEL A recently published book on prisons around the world, turns a spotlight on the “punishment“ focus of America Prisons and alternatives to that American Model. Baz Dreisinger, writes in her book, “Incarceration … Read moreCOMMENTARY

COMMENTARY

GROWING SOCIAL INEQUALITY LINKED TO HARSH CRIMINAL SENTENCES A recent research paper out of Great Britain, finds that “public anger toward crime and support for harsh criminal justice policy ia linked to factors associated with social inequality.” The paper written by Carolyn Cote-Lussier, assistant professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, is titled, “The … Read moreCOMMENTARY

COMMENTARY

 ITALIANS PRISONERS SUCCEED THROUGH THEATRE While running the nacent San Francisco Parole Reentry Court in 2010, I  rediscovered the importance of engaging parolees in what the social scientists call  “Pro-Social Activities”. If you could provide opportunities to engage in positive community-based activities (especially productive or creative ones), they were very likely to succeed. It worked … Read moreCOMMENTARY

COMMENTARY: PRISON CORPS. MOVE IN ON “ALTERNATIVES TO PRISON”

PARTS II: ARE GPS BRACELETS AN ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATIVE TO INCARCERATION? This is an introduction  to an issue which has been brewing within the criminal justice system, but only now is reaching the general public: What do GPS bracelets accomplish and should they be a mainstay of “alternatives to incarceration programs”. One of the two biggest suppliers of … Read moreCOMMENTARY: PRISON CORPS. MOVE IN ON “ALTERNATIVES TO PRISON”

COMMENTARY

DRUG COURTS ARE FOR DRUG ADDICTS/UNLESS THEY’RE NOT

reentrycourtRecent published articles suggest that some drug courts show a statistical preference for participants who have less serious criminal histories (ie. without violent incidents or mental health issues), are less drug dependent, and have substantial community resources to assist them (family, job, education, etc.). Basically the suggestion is that those who are truly “drug dependent” offenders (and more specifically “people  of color”) are not getting into drug court or not staying very long.

The question then is, what is the appropriate “targeted population for drug court”? While the Drug Court field started out somewhat timidly dealing with less serious drug offenders, the research and experience of the past twenty years has proven conclusively the merit of  working with those with longer criminal histories, more difficult personal issues such as illiteracy, mental illness, and lack of community resources, and critically, addiction/drug dependency (specifically, low risk offenders do not benefit, and in fact do worse than similar offenders who have not been placed in intensive treatment programs; University of Cincinnati)

But there are still some drug courts who prefer to focus on those with less serious drug problems. Those drug courts that are reluctant to take on the difficult drug dependent offender need to consider creating a drug court system that deals with their preferred clientel, but also provides separate tracks for those with more serious problems, specifically drug addiciton and mental illness (interestingly, researchers tell us that 60 to 80% of drug offenders are not “addicted or drug dependent”; see: Drug Court Systems, NDCI Monograph #2, J Tauber)

Consider this; If you don’t put the serious drug dependent offender in your drug court program you are impacting the program’s participant base (delaying entry by more than a week can by itself have a profound impact on your program’s demographics). You are increasing the number of participants who are most likely to stray from the program and return to drugs, and limiting the program’s availability to people who need it the most.

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Commentary

A NEW YEAR’S VISION: EVIDENCE-BASED SENTENCING FOR ALL

FORMER SERVICEMAN STANDS BEFORE "VETERANS' COURT" JUDGE
FORMER SERVICEMAN STANDS BEFORE “VETERANS’ COURT” JUDGE

It is the New Year and so it is customary to envision what we should accomplish in the the next year. Instead, allow me to envision a new evience-based sentencing system in place across the U.S. Let’s assume for a moment that only those truly deserving remain in prison or jail (hypothetically a fraction of those currently incarcerated). That would leave the Sentencing Judges with the critical task od deciding what do they do with those who commit criminal offenses. How would they sentence those convicted of a crime in a fair, humane and rational manner.

Actually the antecedents of such a sentencing system  go back more than 25 years to the dawn of the Drug Court era. It was widely understood that the sentencing and supervision of drug offenders wasn’t working. There was little coordination in the court’s dealing with the drug offender, the offender rarely saw the same judge or court personnel twice, there was little court or offender accountability and altogether inadequate rehabilitation services available.(Monograph No.2, of the 1999 NDCI Monograph Series, “Drug Court Systems”, Jeffrey Tauber)

Following the example of the Drug Court, our futuristic sentencing system would have the same judge and court team deal with the sentenced offender (to the extent possible), as part of a seamless supervision, treatment, and rehabilitation system, that runs from sentencing, through custody, through community supervision, to the very conclusion of the case.

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COMMENTARY

POPE URGES THE NEW YEAR TO BE A HOLY YEAR OF AMNESTY FOR PRISONERS Pope Francis continues to bring the attention of the world to the plight of the poor and the imprisoned. In his annual peace message he urged policy-makers  to overcome what he called the “globalization of indifference”. In his Annnual Peace Message … Read moreCOMMENTARY

COMMENTARY

WHY DRUG COURT IS NOT A SILVER BULLET If you follow the comments of governors and other state policy makers these days, it appears that they have signed on to the notion that drug courts are the answer to prison overpopulation, high crime rates, and increased recidivism (and that may be the short list). In … Read moreCOMMENTARY

COMMENTARY

HOW I KNOW PROP. 47 IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO

[One in a series of articles on California’s Prop 47; reducing less serious felony offenses,(drug and non-drug) to misdemeanors]

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San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon

 San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon has been quoted as saying, “The [Criminal Justice] System isn’t broke  because of Prop 47, the System was broke before Prop. 47”.  To hear San Francisco District Attorney and former Police Chief  Gascon make such a bold statement is surprising, and more than that, a challenge to those of us working in the Criminal justice System across the nation.

 I agree with District Attorney Gascon. Prop. 47 is a huge change in course for a  criminal justice system that is used to increasing penalties and consequences for drug users for over a century. Over the past forty years, these less serious drug felonies have become a big part of the criminal justice system’s food chain (and we are paying for it with much needed community resources and overflowing prisons and jails).

 Clearly, the courts are a critical tool for getting the drug addicted into treatment and keeping them there. But one dosesn’t need a felony offense and the threat of prison to get it the job done. I have watched from my perch as a judicial officer since 1985, and while drug addiction is a  very serious medical and public health problem, drug possession offenses are being over-charged and over-incarcerated by the criminal justice system, even if its intent is to encourage sobriety.

I developed the Oakland Drug Court in 1990 to try to bring reason to a broken system. I went to Washington D.C. and founded the National Assocaition of Drug Court Professionals, to take that rational approach to the national level. Before returning to California in 2001, I wrote a mongraph, “Rational Drug Policy Reform” ( Center for Problem-Solving Courts, 2001). In it I proposed a simple but critical change in the law; the reduction of drug possssion felonies to misdemeanors (Chapter 2, pp. 7-11).

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COMMENTARY

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

THE SUCCESS OF CAL.PROP. 47 REFORM WILL NOT IMPACT DRUG COURTS

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.

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COMMENTARY

Some of the participant/clients of the an Francisco Parole Reentry Court, a Community-Based Court Program
Some of the participant/clients of the San Francisco Parole Reentry Court, a Community-Based Court Program

 

BUILDING TRADITIONAL COMMUNITY JUSTICE INTO COURTS

October 19, 2015

This article is part of a series on my website: reentrycourtsolutions.com  called “NEW DIRECTIONS” (viewed on right), describing “Alternative Visions to Western Criminal Justice Systems”; seeking to show how traditional community-based systems can exist alongside current Western systems of criminal justice.

An article in the Huffington Post proposes a novel alternative to the existing prisons system, prisons that are run by non-profit organizations (Huffington Post, “Nonprofit Floats Unusual Alternative To Private Prison”). The author, Saki Knafo, describes how “Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, or CURE, a prison reform group comprised mainly of former inmates, wants to convert a private jail in D.C. into what they say would be the first nonprofit lockup in the country, if not the world.”

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Four Roles of a Judge in a Community-Based Court

The following article was published in 2009, in an attempt to define the importance of the Judge within the framework of a Community-Based Court (Drug, Mental Health, DUI Court, etc.), describing both the importance and limitations of the judicial position.  

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INTRODUCTION

About fifteen years ago, I described the role of the Drug Court Judge in a judge’s manual (J. Tauber, Drug Courts: A Judicial Manual, CJER; 1994).  I wrote, ” A drug Court provides direction and focus through the leadership of a single judge”.  A statement writ large, and in retrospect, an overstatement of the importance of the drug court judge.  For while, the drug court judge is an important reason for the success of the drug court, he or she acts more an enabler than director.  The major actor is “community” itself.

In effect, the drug court judge creates an environment in which successful drug court “communities” can thrive; where a “drug court team” comes together to institutionalize community-based structures for long-term success, and where a “community ” of drug court practitioners and participants exert systemic control over substantial numbers of serious drug offenders. So I suppose, if I were to write a definition of a Drug Court Judge today, it might simply read, ” a judge is the first among equals in a “drug court community”. [Note: the Drug Court Judge is generally described as a drug court practitioner and a member of the “Drug Court Team”, unless otherwise indicated.)

Over the past fifteen years much has happened in the drug court field.  Over 2500 drug courts and other problem solving courts have been established.  Both NADCP and NDCI now serve the field.  And while I presided over my first Drug Court in 1990, I’ve learned a great deal over the years watching, listening and talking to thousands of drug court practitioners and participants across the country and around the globe.  The world of the Drug Court, as well as the drug court practitioner and participant have changed irrevocably and continue to evolve.

I believe that The Community-Based Drug Court described is already in place to a substantial extent in every Drug Court in this country. We don’t always recognize the characteristics that define these court programs as community-involved, institutionalized, or systemic, but they are there.  And while not all Drug Courts or Problem-Solving Courts have moved rapidly towards this Community-Based model, I am convinced that most successful ones are doing so. [Though the analysis focuses largely on the Drug Court, it is in most cases equally applicable to Problem-Solving Courts in general.]

This article is designed to give you a candid insider’s analysis of the role of the Drug Court Judge [DCJ]  in the Community-Based Drug Court.  In it, I will attempt to discuss the political, emotional, psychological and personal issues that many drug court or problem-solving court judges face.   I will provide straightforward text and then one judge’s perspective (found in bold type)

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LAW AND MORALITY IN DRUG COURTS

September 30,2015

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 8.44.52 AMI concur strongly with the recently passed New York State legislation finding Drug Court Judges unqualified to make certain treatment decisions. In my 2001 monograph, “Rational Drug Policy Reform: A Resorce Guide”, I spoke of the Drug court and the Drug Court Judge’s role “to motivate the drug abuser to comply with treatment requirements”, and concluded ” drug courts recognize that drug abuse is not primarily a criminal justice problem, but that the courts are a necessary component of its solution”.

“In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case, Robinson v. California laid the groundwork for the drug court model. In Robinson, Justice Stewart speaking for the majority held that:

“It is unlikely that any State at this moment in history would attempt to make it a criminal offense for a person to be mentally ill, or a leper, or to be afflicted with a venereal disease. A State might determine that the general health and welfare require that the victims of these and other human afflictions be dealt with by compulsory treatment, involving quarantine, confinement, or sequestration. But, in the light of contemporary human knowledge, a law, which made a criminal offense of such a disease, would doubtless be universally thought to be an infliction of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.”

Being an addict would no longer be a “moral affliction”, but be legally recognized as having a disease that needed treatment. While being in possession of illegal drugs was not a status offender and could be punished as a crime, from Robinson onward, treatment would become more acceptable and in some cases the preferred approach to the drug possessor. According to commentators, the Robinson decision spurred both the Nixon and Carter administrations to develop non-penal responses to drug offenders. In the 1970’s for example, TASC, a nationwide federal initiative, was designed to provide a bridge between the addict and the criminal justice system, providing treatment rather than punishment for the drug offender.

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TO BE PUBLISHED IN 2019, NADCP’s 25th Year Anniversary: “A Personal History of NADCP and the Drug Court Movement: 1990-2001”

EDITING: THE FINAL FRONTIER 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 2019, the 25th year anniversary of … Read moreTO BE PUBLISHED IN 2019, NADCP’s 25th Year Anniversary: “A Personal History of NADCP and the Drug Court Movement: 1990-2001”

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