"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 7: a Last Chance Before Prison

Oct. 27, 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 justice 061909Prison3_186762f

Front End Reentry Courts, Pre-Entry Courts or Early Intervention Courts are a hybrid response to long prison sentences. They allow offenders to avoid long prison sentences by completing a short term in a prison rehabilitation program (and in some cases jail or community corrections programs), to return to their communities to be supervised by the same court that sentenced them.

It is often thought that the court’s have little recourse or jurisdiction to affect a prison sentence once that sentence has been announced. The truth is, that most state courts have significant jursdiction to alter, amend or modify a prison sentence. Depending on the state, jurisdiction to recall may exist for a period of one month to one year after sentencing.The most obvious purpose of a “front-loaded intervention”, is to order a convicted felon to state prison for an evaluation, assessment, or other purpose, immediately before or after sentence has been imposed

Jjurisdiction exists in many states to recall the felon, after sentencing, for re-consideration and potential re-sentencing. The intention to recall may be announced at the time of sentence, or the decision to recall may be discretionary with the judge within the statutory period. This form of pre-entry intervention is often used to encourage a serious attitude change on the part of a prospective long-tern prisoner.

While this power is found in most state courts, it is most often used by individual judges on a case by case basis. Some courts, in particular drug courts, will use front-loaded jurisdiction to create what can be called a “court-based reentry system” (often described as a Pre-entry Court). The judge may use their jurisdiction to sentence the felon to prison as part of a court-ordered treatment program, with the understanding that the offender is to undergo treatment before returned to court for re-sentencing. If the felon is found in compliance, the court will return the felon to a court-based probation program in the community.

The above are just some of the existing variations in the courts’ use of a brief and immediate prison term, to be followed by recall to the court for sentencing or reconsideration of a sentence previously imposed. They are considered here because they are generally thought of as a successful rehabilitation strategy, designed to get the offender’s attention, assess their suitability for probation, and give them one last chance to change their behavior before a substantial prison sentence is imposed. It should be seriously considered on the program level as an alternative to prison, and as a way to reach out to large numbers of offenders that otherwise would be on their way to long prison terms.

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

(CLICK TO SEE EXCERPTED BOOK CHAPTERS} 

 

 

Court Imposes 18 year Sentence for Drug Court Violation

Oct. 28,2012

I came across the following article  in a local newspaper in St.Johns, Arizona (click here):

“After violating the terms of his probation and failing to comply with the Apache County Drug Court Program, Brent Alexander Hargous has been sentenced to the Arizona Department of Corrections for a term of 18 years. “I am pleased with the sentence. The defendant was given a last chance in drug court and failed. Enough is enough,” said County Attorney Whiting.”

I was taken aback by the idea that  a technical violation of Drug Court Rules (apparently failure to go to treatment and failure to return to court) could result in a sentence of that magnitude. Though I know not what the underlying offense was, it’s hard to imagine it to be too heinous, if Drug Court was the community alternative. And since the felon was in drug court, there’s the probability that his failure to follow the rules was the result of a serious drug dependency that he was not able to control.

This brings to mind a serious concern about Drug Court sentencing.. There has to be a sense of proportionality when sentencing felons for technical violations of Drug Court rules and regulations. Residential treatment and even county jai may be appropriate for even serious technical violations. But if prison is required, then  let it be a rational and realistic prison sentence. Does Arizona really want to pay for 18 years of imprisonment for a drug court violator. There may be more here than meets the eye. But i hope that Arizona law allows the sentencing judge to return the violator to local control and rehabilitation after a short term in prison.

As discussed in many articles on this website, the use of “Front-End Reentry Courts” ought to be employed in cases like this one. Allowing the sentencing judge to return the felon to court for re-sentencing after a significant and hopefully rehabilitative (6 to 12 months) term in prison, makes sense in every way.

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