By 1994, I had a leadership position among a small coalition of activist drug court practitioners and judges; now I had to decide whether or not to take the leap and attempt to build a major league criminal justice reform organization from the ground up
LAYING THE FOUNDATION FOR NADCP
By 1994, it was clear to me that drug courts needed education, training, and funding, but most of all a national practitioner-focused organization to lead it. We had already developed a community of practitioners with the political influence to shape legislation and fund programs; also to share information and learn from one another.
It was our community of practitioners (ranging from judges to D.A.s, to defense attorneys, to probation officers, to treatment providers, etc.), that made our informal coalition of drug court leaders and educators so unique and effective (i.e., successfully lobbying for the 94’ Crime Act.)
It also was obvious that non-profits and academic organizations in the field were looking wistfully at drug court as an important new field to colonize. These organizations would typically move into a field, and absorb the training and education funds available, distributing them as they would, to cooperative practitioners. It was clear that the money was on its way, and whoever controlled those funds would likely control the field.
PUSHING FOR A FORMAL ORGANIZATION
I met Carolyn Cooper and Joe Trotter of American University’s Justice Program’s Office sometime in early 1994, at the suggestion of Judge Tomar Mason of the San Francisco Superior Court. I had been asked to join them for dinner in San Francisco at a fine restaurant. They were friendly and solicitous, and interested in my understanding of the drug court concept and its applicability. I didn’t know Tomar well, but understood that she was attempting to win her colleagues’ approval for a San Francisco Drug Court (a common issue among courts). Over dinner, we discussed the field generally, but also the possibility of the creation of a national drug court organization. They were willing to help.
It was about that time that I was introduced to Robin Kimbrough, a strong drug court advocate and staff member at the American Bar Association. Robin brought to my attention a non-profit organization sited in Alexandria, VA, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), a very credible anti-drug organization funded by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, that might be willing to accept monies on our behalf and administer expenses for a Drug Court Founder’s Meeting.
I was put in touch with a drug testing company in Santa Clara County, called “SYVA”, (then an independent; now part of the SIEMENS Corporation). SYVA was willing to fund a founder’s meeting for a national drug court organization. I was informed that $50,000 could be made available to fund the formation of such an organization. Most of us in the field (especially us judges) had ethical concerns about holding the money or controlling its direct use.