"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

Vision 5: Veteran’s Court; a Harbinger of Things to Come

Oct. 6, 2014

I spent the summer describing alternative justice systems that exist around the world and how they often are community based ( described as “Restorative Justice” in the U.S). I’ve begun a new series on “Alternative Visions of Western Criminal Justice Systems”  that seeks to show how traditional community-based systems can exist alongside current Western systems of criminal justiceScreen Shot 2014-10-05 at 9.17.44 PM

I was a new Judge in 1990, assigned to the existing Drug Court, a Reagan Era monstrosity that was designed to get drug offenders from Arraignment to prison as quickly as possible. I was overwhelmed by the level of need for treatment and supervision by drug dependent offenders in the city of Oakland, and decided that we would make treatment the major focus of a new drug court model.

We opened the floodgates and placed 1156 participants in the program over the first full year of the Oakland F.I.R.S.T Drug Court, (with spectacular results, Evaluations of Oakland”s F.I.R.S.T Drug Court: 1991-1993).  Unfortunately the treatment, as limited as it was, was only available to a limited contingent of drug offenders and not at all to those without a drug offense charged or a drug abuse problem. The issue of who is denied treatment because they don’t fit into a predetermined treatment program bothered me then and bothers me today. I am convinced  that Drug Courts and other Community-Based Courts (also called Problem-Solving Courts) are but an intermediate step in the development of a new kind of comprehensive sentencing system that will be the accepted mainstream alternatives model in the future

All serious offenders (whether felons or misdemeanants) need to be engaged in a sophisticated sentencing system that will tailor the offender’s sentence to their need for rehabilitation (i.e. drug and/or mental health treatment, education, job training, etc.) as well as their risk to the community. Rather than categorize the individual, the courts, relevant agencies, and community need to be part of a community-based sentencing process that deals with the individual rather than a predetermined subset of offenders (who may receive intensive treatment in a Drug, Mental Health, Driving Under The Influence, Domestic Violence, or other Problem Solving Court). 

We’ve had the opportunity to test this thesis in the Veteran’s Courts (and to a lesser extent Reentry Courts) that have proliferated across the nation over the past several years. Veteran’s Courts treat veterans charged with criminal offenses, period. They do not reject serious or violent offenders. Offenders are not categorized or rejected for failure to be a drug offender or mentally deficient. They welcome all offenders who are in need of special support, monitoring or rehabilitation. They are assisted by volunteers from the community at large and the Veteran’s Community in particular. They are not  pigeon-holed.They are simply recognized as individuals with problems that need attention.

Of course, we are willing to assist the veteran who has committed a criminal act very differently than we do the common criminal. But the way we approach the veteran’s offense is the key to successful alternatives to incarceration in the future. When we stop putting individuals in boxes, consider them as we do veteran’s, worthy of redemption, and treat them as human beings with critical needs, and ultimately as part of our communities, we will be on our way to a critical systemic change in how we deal with our criminal population.



These observation are to be part of a book to be published on the History of NADCP and the Drug Court Movement. 





VISION 8: The Drug Court Movement Needs To Own Its History


History is important to the life of any reform. It teaches us what others have been able to achieve against enormous odds. It describes the sacrifices that those who led had to endure to succeed. And hopefully, it educates future reform leaders as to what obstacles to expect and goals they may achieve, as they create new paths toward social justice. My name is Jeffrey Tauber, the founding President of NADCP and Director of NDCI, I was present during much of the early history of NADCP and the Drug Court field, I feel a responsibility to the current Drug Court field, to recite the facts as I remember them and correct major factual misrepresentations.

I may inadvertently  leave individuals out of events, or include others that weren’t present. I definitely will get the dates and sequence of events wrong from time to time, but I will not manufacture facts (and I welcome any correction to an admittedly imperfect history).

This leads me to a difficult and unfortunate conclusion, that NADCP and the Drug Court field’s history has been distorted and usurped by those who came later. I understand that my taking a stand for historical truth can easily be seen as self-aggrandizing, but i think a reform as important as the Drug Court Movement needs to be accurately chronicled without distortion or misrepresentation. One cannot learn from history, if that history isn’t factual.


1. NACP CEO West Huddleston, recently describes himself in his Foreword to the widely distributed 2011 NDCI publication, “Drug Court Judicial Benchbook”, “As the original founding NDCI Director”. That is not accurate. Nor was his LinkedIn bio reference to himself as  having “cofounded” and been  “Director of NDCI” from May, 1998 (which has been modified by Mr. Huddleston since publication of this article).

In contrast, in his blog in The Huffington Post, he reflects in his own words, on his status when he arrived at NDCI in 1998, “Mr. Huddleston served as the first Deputy Director and then Director of NADCP’s professional services branch, the National Drug Court Institute (NDCI), for nine years.” In fact, he did  report for his entry-level management position, as Deputy Director of NDCI, in May of 1998, a young man in his early thirties, who turned out to be an extraordinarily capable and hard-working assistant, a loyal employee, and a friend.

However, NDCI’s Founding Ceremony was held in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on December 10, 1997 (some six months earlier; see Excerpt 6).  At the White House Ceremony, as the Founding Director of NDCI, I was honored to be the first of several major speakers (including General Barry McCaffrey, Director of ONDCP, Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General and Director of the DOJ Office of Justice Programs, and Judge Pat Morris of San Bernardino CA, (with the chair of NADCP, Claire McCaskill, (now Senator McCaskill), introduced from the podium; (see CSPAN Video: Establishment of Drug Court Institute, December 10, 1997)

2. I presided over the DWI Focus Group in November of 1998 and authored the monograph, “DWI Courts: Defining a National Strategy”, published in March of 1999. That same monograph, republished without change in 2004 by NDCI, gave primary authorship to my successor at NADCP, Karen-Freeman Wilson, (NADCP currently attributes authorship in its web pages to Karen Freeman Wilson). Her authorship of that monograph, as well as the description of her in that monograph, as Executive Director of NDCI in 1999, are not accurate.

3. Retired California Superior Court judge Peggy Hora, a knowledgeable drug court scholar and NADCP Senior Judicial Fellow, declares in her published article, “Through a Glass Gavel: Predicting the Future of Drug Treatment Courts” (2007), on page one:  “I was one of the 100 people who gathered in Miami and created the National Association of Drug Court Professionals in 1994”.

That is not accurate. NADCP was created on May 10th of 1994 in Alexandria Va., where I was elected the founding President of NADCP. Judge Hora was not present (as described in Excerpt No.4; see NADCP Press Release and Bylaws issued May 10, 1994; Summer, 1994 CJER Publication, Drug Courts: A Judicial Manual, found in Appendix D1)

There is a lesson here for all of us. Those in authority may have the power, as well as the right, to create a new future for us, but not a new past.

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