How NADCP got its start

The  NADCP Conference is history. Over 3000 participants and 3o workshop tracks over a 3 day period. The openning Plenary session was the most moving part of the Conference, with dozens of former addicts and their families giving testimonials on how drug court had changed their lives. Followed by presentations by Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson and her boss Attorney General Eric Holder.  Both gave wonderful speeches in support of Drug courts and were cheered with great enthusism.

Which brought to mind the story of how NADCP got its start. In 1995, Laurie Robinson and I were both at a TASC Conference in Orlando, Florida. Laurie was Assistant Attorney General and head of the Office  of Justice Programs (OJP). I was president of a fledgling non-profit organization made up of about a dozen drug court judges and working out of a file cabinet in my court chambers in Oakland, California. I had spoken to Laurie on previous ocassions, but knew her slightly.

When I ran into her at the hotel swimming pool, we talked about the conference briefly and then discussed the state of the Drug Court field. We agreed that Drug Courts were a grassroots phenomenum that needed to provide its own technical assistance through its own drug court professionals. By the time we had finished our conversation, Laurie had decided to provide funding for the development of drug court standards. That was the year that OJP funded “Defining Drug Courts: The Ten Key Components”, a document that became something of a bible to the field.   Although the actual funding wasn’t a great deal of money, it was enough to get a fledgling organization, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, off the ground.

Over the years, besides being a partner in the creation of NADCP, Laurie has continued to be a strong supporter and  persuasive advocate for drug courts and problem solving courts. I thought about that as 3000 plus gave her a well deserved standing ovation at the NADCP conference.

“Second Chance” Reentry Court RFP: A New Day

Note: Deadline for applications; June 3, 2010

This is the first of several articles  on the “Second Chance Act” Reentry Court Solicitation; in this analysis,  I will review the RFP from a collaborative and reintegration perspective.

We’ve been waiting for a Reentry Court “Request For Proposal” (RFP) for a long time. For me, the wait began in 1999, when I collaborated (with West Huddleston, now CEO of NADCP)  on the field’s first focus group and publication, “Reentry Drug  Courts”. The “Second Chance Act”  (Sec. 111), offers up to $500 thousand per applicant and a total invesment of $10 million for the year 2010, the first large scale funding for Reentry Courts  ( though there was limited funding for the Reentry Court Initiative).

That the field has grown little over the past decade is probably due in part to the lack of federal resources, guidance, and interest. While Drug Courts grew from an initial $6 million appropriation in 1996 to over $150 million in 2010, there has been little in the way of federal assistance for “Reentry Courts”, until the Obama Administration, the Holder DOJ, and the return of  Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson as head of OJP (as she was during the Clinton Administration).

All this is to say, that it’s a new day, and that people  are starting to take notice of the potential of Reentry Courts.  Interestingly, it was Jeremy Travis (now, President of the John Jay School of Justice), who first proposed the concept, as NIJ Director during the Clinton Administration,  More recently, in his book, “But They All Came Came Back”, he wrote, “Reentry Courts offer numerous advantages over our current system of reentry supervision”  ….however, the most compelling reason for moving toward a universal system of reentry courts is these court’s ability to promote reintegration.”

The need for a higher level of collaboration and reintegration on state and local levels is clearly reflected in the solicitation’s very  first paragraph. “BJA will only consider applications that demonstrate that the proposed reentry court will be administered by corrections agencies and an entity with judical authority, such as a state or local court, or probation and parole”.  The RFP goes on to state  that applications  ” are strongly urged to submit a Letter of Support from the State Chief Justice demonstrating that the proposal has been coordinated with, and is supported by, the state’s highest state court”.  This critical recognition  of state leadership, in both corrections and the courts, pushes both  state and local jurisdictions to work together in developing their reentry court model.

Drug Courts (although they should) often do not engage  the wider community. Under this solicitation, Reentry Court proposals that can “demonstrate a high degree of collaboration among a variety of public, private, and faith based organizations” will be given priority.  The RFP also gives priority to proposals that “include coordination with families of offenders”. I believe these priorities once again push the applicants to develop effective working relationships with the entire reentry community , including the offenders’ families, and their advocates.

This solicitation moves applicants toward a new ” collaborative reintegration-based model”, with collaboration mandated on state and local levels, both corrections and courts required to work closely together, and  the entire community encouraged to be an integral part of the reentry court process. More to the point, the reentry court process needs to find its place within and become  an integral part of community-wide reinintegration efforts. (For more information on the importance  of  community based reentry under the “Second Chance Act”, visit the National Reentry Resource Center).

Inquiries about this “Request For Proposal” should be directed to Dr. Gary Dennis, Senior Policy Advisor For Corrections, at (202) 305-9059 or [email protected].

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