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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    Report Document No. 43
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    Document Title
    2006 Annual Report on the Evaluation of Virginia's Drug Treatment Court Programs

    Supreme Court of Virginia

    Enabling Authority

    Executive Summary
    Designed in response to increasing numbers of drug-related court cases, the drug treatment court model is primarily used as an alternative to probation and short-term incarceration for drug-involved offenders. Drug treatment courts represent the coordinated efforts of the judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, probation officer, law enforcement officer, treatment provider, mental health clinician, and social services staff to actively intervene and break the cycle of addiction and crime. The merging of these systems allows drug treatment court participants to undergo substance abuse and mental health treatment, case management, drug testing, and probation supervision while appearing before a member of the judiciary for regular and frequent status hearings.

    Virginia's first drug treatment court program, located in Roanoke, was developed in 1995 as a response to escalating numbers of adult drug offenders on court dockets. During the late 1990s, the number of Virginia drug treatment court programs increased and ultimately prompted legislative action. By citing statistics which suggested the continuing prevalence of drug-driven crime in Virginia, two primary legislative efforts spearheaded development of the Virginia Drug Treatment Court program. In 1999, the Virginia General Assembly adopted Senate Joint Resolution 399 (SJR 399) which culminated in recommendations to guide the appropriate sequence of federal and state funding requests, funding policies for new and continuing programs, and funding implications for forthcoming evaluation information. The Drug Treatment Court Act subsequently passed in 2004, and directed the Supreme Court of Virginia (SCV) to provide administrative oversight for the state's drug treatment court programs, including distribution of funds, technical assistance to local courts, training, and program evaluation.

    To date, Virginia has implemented 29 drug treatment courts utilizing four different models, specifically, the adult model, the juvenile model, the family model, and the Driving While Intoxicated/Driving Under the Influence (DWI/DUI) model. As summarized below, this report reviews referral processes and primary characteristics for Virginia's locally-implemented programs.

    Adult drug treatment courts handle misdemeanor or felony cases involving drug-using offenders. In serving this population, the programs utilize a blend of court-ordered supervision, drug testing, treatment services, court appearances, and behavioral sanctions and incentives. Overarching goals of the adult model are to reduce recidivism and substance use among participants. Sixteen adult drug treatment court programs are currently operational in Virginia, with program capacities ranging from about 5 to I 00 cases. All of the adult drug treatment courts require a minimum of 12 months of participation for program completion, with one requiring as much as 36 months. Each program also requires a minimum consecutive period of sobriety prior to graduation, ranging from a low of 30 days to a high of about one year.

    Similar in design to the adult model, the juvenile drug treatment courts strive to reduce recidivism and substance use by processing delinquency and status offenses of substance-abusing juveniles. The juvenile model incorporates probation supervision, drug testing, treatment, court appearances, and behavioral sanctions and incentives. Such programs also strive to address issues which are unique to the juvenile population (e.g., school attendance, parenting skills) and the families of these juveniles play a very important role in the drug treatment court process. Eight juvenile drug treatment court programs are currently operational in Virginia. Program capacities range from 12 to 30 participants. The minimum amount of time offenders must participate in the program prior to graduation varies from about 4.5 months to 12 months in several localities. Almost all juvenile drug treatment courts require a minimum consecutive period of sobriety prior to graduation, ranging from a total of 30 days to 6 months.

    Family drug treatment court programs deal with addicted parents or caretakers who are brought before the court with child abuse and/or neglect petitions. Unlike criminal court models, family drug treatment court programs work towards the primary goal of providing safe and permanent homes for children. A supplementary goal is reducing substance use in parents or caretakers who participate in the program. Family drug treatment courts integrate treatment, drug testing, social services, court appearances, and behavioral sanctions and incentives. Four family drug treatment court programs are currently operational in Virginia, with program capacities ranging from 15-20 families. For each of these programs, the minimum participation time is 12 months. Three of the four family drug treatment court programs require a minimum consecutive period of sobriety prior to graduation, ranging from 3 to 6 months.

    The DUI (Driving Under the Influence) drug treatment court is a distinctive court model that provides intensive judicial oversight, community supervision and long-term treatment services for alcohol/drug dependent offenders convicted of DUI. The primary goals of the DUI drug treatment court are, to protect public safety and reduce alcohol/drug use by these offenders. The Fredericksburg Regional DUI Drug Treatment Court, established in 1999, is currently the only approved DUI drug treatment court in Virginia. This program requires a minimum participation period of 12 months, including a minimum of 4-6 months of active treatment and an additional monitoring period of at least 8 months. There is no specified length of time in which participants must remain sober before they are released from the program.

    Drawing upon prior research which suggests promising results for at least some drug treatment court models, this report additionally provides a foundational research plan to evaluate each of the four types of drug treatment court programs in Virginia. Virginia's evaluation research model for adult drug treatment courts is founded on the strategy outlined in the National Drug Court Institute's (NDCI) guidance document (Heck, 2006). The NDCI evaluation model provides an exceptional foundation for conducting research on adult drug treatment court programs; however, similar models for juvenile, family and DUI drug treatment courts have not yet been endorsed. To this end, this study creates customized evaluation methodologies for each of these models as well. The Virginia evaluation plans are further grounded in the creation and utilization of a statewide drug treatment court database which will be highly useful for evaluation purposes. This research effort is intended to contribute to both decision-making regarding Virginia's drug treatment courts, as well as the larger scope of research literature in this field.