EXCERPT NO. 7: RIDING THE WAVE; 1999

There is a time when riding a wave, you reach the crest, and are on top of the world in a matter of speaking. That’s what it felt like to be leading the drug court movement in the late 90s. Getting ready for the dismount, or in my case, my exit from NADCP/NDCI was as difficult as the ride itself.

JeffTauber

Senior NDCI Judicial Trainers, Judges Bill Meyer, Jeff Tauber, Robert Russell, and Susan Finlay, singing off-key at graduation dinner held at D.C. restaurant, La Cologne

 

REACHING THE TOP

By 1999, the Drug Court field was akin to a giant wave. It was my 4th year running NADCP from D.C., I spent much of my time crisscrossing the country laying the ground work for a national criminal justice reform movement. I was hanging on for dear life, the most exhausting and exhilarating period of my career.

As the founder of both NADCP and NDCI, I believed I was leading the most far-reaching criminal justice reform movement in more than a generation. I was making major decisions and leading in the development of new initiatives, driving the organization toward a vision that existed, if only in my own mind. It was also becoming obvious to me that I was chronically exhausted and that my physical efforts couldn’t last. But I felt blessed to be the leader of NADCP, at the time that the Drug Court Movement blossomed.

I had accepted the greatest challenge of my life. And I appeared to be succeeding. There was an explosion of interest in NADCP and Drug Courts. To my mind, that was a causal factor in the extraordinary change in attitude taking place within the criminal justice system and society in general, toward drug users over the next decade.

According to the DOJ’s National Institute of Justice, at the end of the field’s first five-year period (1989-1993) there were a total of 19 existing drug courts.  From 1994, when NADCP was founded, until the end of 1998 (a second five year period), 329 new drug courts had been established (for a grand total of 347 drug courts, or an 18 fold increase over the initial five year pre-NADCP period).

NDCI’s BREAKTHROUGH YEAR

Long term, my vision was of NDCI taking a leadership role in the larger criminal justice reform movement, and setting up long-term projects and hopefully reform institutes to deal with such critical issues as systemic approaches to drug abuse and criminality, alternatives to prison and incarceration for all offenders, and the decriminalization of the drug user.

NDCI had received a $ 2 million grant to spend as we and ONDCP thought appropriate. 1999 was our opportunity to take off and overwhelm the field with innovative science based projects. And we did just that. From the first, I saw the development of NDCI, our Education, Scholarship and Research based arm, as a means of shifting NADCP’s gears from practitioner advocacy toward a more credible, science and research based policy making institution. Continue reading

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

trainees-nashvilleTHE IMPORTANCE OF HISTORICAL FACT

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.

THREE RECENT EXAMPLES

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.