EXCERPT NO. 7: RIDING THE WAVE; 1999

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.

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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

 

REACHING THE TOP

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).

NDCI’s BREAKTHROUGH YEAR

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

EXCERPT NO. 8: REACHING BEYOND DRUG COURT; 2000

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.

A BANNER YEAR FOR NADCP/NDCI

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.”

PROBLEM-SOLVING: EVOLVING CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

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.]

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EXCERPT NO. 9: REENTERING THE REAL WORLD; 2001

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)

 

RESIGNATION FROM NADCP/NDCI

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.

HELPING TO CHOOSE MY SUCCESSOR

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

EXCERPT NO. 10: THE MEANING OF ONE’S LEGACY

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.

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Reentry Court participants congratulate first Reentry Court graduation.

THE IMPORTANCE OF NADCP AND DRUG COURTS TO CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

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: http://www.nadcp.org/learn/about-nadcp) “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.”

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