"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

WHY DRUG COURT IS NOT A SILVER BULLET

Reprinted from December 2018

Dr.Doug Marlow,
Dr.Doug Marlow, Chief of Science, Policy and Law, NADCP

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 reading about their support for drug courts, I am cheered by their adoption of an important  innovation that I along with others pioneered some twenty-five years ago. But I am disheartened by their misunderstanding of the significance and applicability of drug court to all criminal offenders.

Drug abuse is a good example of the failure of the “one size fits all” philosophy in the criminal justice world.  As tempting as it may be to lock onto drug court treatment as a silver bullet that works with all offenders, drug court isn’t cost-effective, appropriate, or productive as a treatment alternative for most criminal offenders (or most drug offenders). While drug courts are the most intensive “alternatie to incarceration” available for drug abusers, they should not be the only effective treatment option for the drug abuser.

Optimally, we should think of the drug court as the anchor and the most intensive in a series of  treatment/rehabilitation tracks available for the different levels of drug abuse encountered. A Drug Court System could provide a series of progressively more intensive versions of the Drug Court model, beginning with a face to face encounter with a judge, and possible diversion from the criminal justice system, and culminating at the other end of the spectrum, with a fully implemented drug court program.

As described by Dr. Doug Marlow, Chief of Science, Policy & Law, at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (see: NADCP argues for Evidence-based tracks), most drug offenders are not drug dependent and shouldn’t be part of an intensive drug court program. Dr.Marlow estimates that 60 to 80% of drug offenders do not need a drug court’s intensive treatment.That means that more than half of drug offenders should be going somewhere else  besides drug court for their treatment and rehab needs.

At the very least, drug courts need to be modified (as Dr. Marlow suggests) to deal with the majority of criminal offenders, who are drug abusers, but not drug dependent. Whether in an expanded drug court system or an existing probation structure, we need to deal with the whole person in a scientific, evidence-based sentencing system (whatever we end up calling it), where individual levels of risk and need are determined, and appropriate supervision and treatment responses apply.

In practical terms, it appears that we over-treat drug abuse and pay too little attention to cognitive behavioral needs and rehabilitative therapies that have proven successful. In essence what Dr. Marlowe and his scientific brethren have been telling us is that traditional Drug Court is not the answer to most offenders’ treatment and rehab needs.

[Note: drug courts reach only about 5% of drug offenders (which is far from what is needed); there continues to be an appalling failure to develop significant and appropriate treatment and rehabilitation tracks for non-dependent drug abusers specifically, and non-drug abusers in general]

 

Systemic Approaches to Sentencing: Part 10

June 12, 2012

Dealing with the whole person in sentencing: Part 10

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 reading about their support for drug courts, I am cheered by their adoption of an important  innovation that I along with others pioneered over twenty years ago. And I am disheartened by their misunderstanding of the significance and applicability of drug court to one and all criminal offenders.

As described by Dr. Doug Marlow, at the 18th Annual NADCP Conference in Nashville  (see:  NADCP argues for Evidence-based tracks), most drug offenders are not drug dependent and shouldn’t be part of an intensive drug court program. In fact, according to Dr.Marlow, 60 to 80% of drug offenders do not need  a drug court’s intensive treatment. The majority of criminal offenders need to be treated as a whole person (not just a drug abusing person). As tempting as it may be to lock onto drug treatment as a silver bullet that works with all offenders, it isn’t an effective or cost- efficient tool for most criminal offenders (or even most drug offenders).

However that shold not conclude our analysis. If you look at the scientific literature on evidence based sentencing practices (click on image on the left,for a brief, comprehensive description of “Evidence Based Practices”), you’ll find that medium to high risk offenders have substantial criminogenic needs that need to be addressed, even if they’re not drug related.

“Criminogenic Needs” are functional impairments that if not treated, will increase the risk of further criminality. The top four such needs are a history of anti-social behavior, anti-social personality factors, anti-social cognitions/attitudes, and anti-social peers.Surprisingly, drug abuse is a second tier criminogenic need that only becomes a central concern if the offender is truly drug dependent or addicted., Otherwise, substance abuse treatment ranks  behind such second tier criminogenic needs such as family and/or marital stressors, employment and/or education deficiencies, and lack of pro-social leisure activities.

In practical terms, it appears that we over-treat drug abuse and pay too little attention to cognitive behavioral needs and rehabilitative therapies that have proven success in dealing with them. In essence what Dr. Marlowe and his scientific brethren have been telling us is Drug Court is not the answer to most offenders’ crimonogenic needs (although the better drug courts do not neglect them). Certainly drug courts can be modified (as Dr. Marlow suggests) to deal with the majority of criminal offenders, whose drug usage is not a primary criminogenic need. But it should be clear to all, that doing so may negatively impact drug courts and appropriate participants  As the old saw goes, if you just treat a criminal offender’s drug abuse, you might just create a healthier criminal. Better to deal with the whole person, in an evidence-based sentencing system, where their individual levels of risk and need are determined, and the appropriate supervision and treatment responses applied to them..

© 2007 -  Reentry Court Solutions. All Rights Reserved.


Reentry Court Solutions Powered by Communications Team