Drug Courts’ Ten Key Components:1997

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“Defining Drug Courts: Key Components”, a publication sponsored by  the Department of Justice, was the first significant document to come out of NADCP. However, it was almost never written at all.

The genesis of the “Key Components” and NADCP itself rests with a decision made by Laurie Robinson, the newly appointed Assistant Attorney General and Director of the Office of Justice Programs by a swimming pool in Orlando, Florida, at a National TASC Conference. I  was president of a fledgling organization of local drug courts (NADCP) and was eager to take the drug court movement to the national level before  the field’s resources were devoured by D.C. consulting firms  (often called beltway bandits).

I knew Laurie well enough to engage her in a casual “what if” discussion. We talked about the benefits of a substantial national organization representing local drug court jurisdicitions coming to D.C.. She knew relatively little about me; a somewhat passionate advocate for drug courts, running a puesdo- national organization out of his chambers in Oakland. But right then she decided to support and partner in the development of a substantial national organization: NADCP. One of the projects she was interested in resourcing, to make this fledgling organization thrive, was  the development of national drug court standard, that were to become the ten key components.

I arrived  in Washington D.C.  with a one year leave of absence from my court (courtesy of Chief Justice Ron George, and Cal. AOC Director, Bill Vickrey), and began developing a Standards project shortly thereafter.  Working out of a Cubicle at Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), I and my only co-worker,  Mark Pearce set about putting together a committee that could produce the needed standards document.  We hit on two extraordinary individuals  to head up the committee, Bill Meyer (then Denver Drug Court judge) as Committee chair, and Jody Forman, as writer and coordinator. We selected twelve experts from related fields and worked  over 6 months and dozens of  committee meetings, conferences and discussions to project conclusion.

We published the document at the 1997 Annual NADCP Conference, at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, with instructions to workshop leaders to make the “Key Components”, the focus of every session. There can be little argument that it is today our seminal document and  continues to be the most important document in the  drug court and problem -solving court fields.

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