- Report Published -
|Virginia's Drug Court Programs|
|Department of Criminal Justice Services|
|SJR 399 (Regular Session, 1999)|
|Since the establishment of the first drug court program in Florida in 1989, interest in and support for this program model has increased dramatically, both nationally and within Virginia. Eight drug court programs are currently operating in Virginia with four more in planning status and seeking implementation funds. Because federal planning and implementation grants for drug court programs are made directly to localities and because there has been no clear policy direction from the state to date, the funding and administrative roles of the local, state, and federal governments have remained unclear.|
Drug court programs are a collaborative effort of the court, probation, substance abuse treatment providers, and others. The program combines continuous and intense treatment, frequent drug testing, appropriate sanctions, and needed ancillary services to substance abusers brought before the court and selected for program participation. The drug court judge is the leader of the drug court team. The underlying philosophy of drug court programs is that this model will result in higher recovery rates from addiction, in reduced criminal behavior, and in long-term reductions in recidivism.
National evaluations (and the first evaluation of the Twenty-third Judicial Circuit Drug Court) have been most positive in their findings regarding successful program participation and recidivism reduction. When comparison is made between the cost of incarceration (approaching $40,000 per offender per year) and the cost of drug court program participation (approximately $3000 per participant per year), the cost effectiveness of effective drug court programming is readily apparent.
SJR 399, directed "the Department of Criminal Justice Services, with the assistance of the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court (and to collaborate with certain other specified agencies] to study structural funding and service guidelines for Virginia's drug court programs" and "to develop recommendations..." Following are the four recommendations resulting from this study:
• Localities should seek federal funding support for drug court planning and implementation before receiving General Funds.
• The Commonwealth should continue funding for established drug court programs.
• State General Funds should be made available as match to support new drug court programs that are currently engaged in planning supported by federal grant funding.
• The Department of Criminal Justice Services should be directed to provide administrative oversight and funding for locally operated drug court programs for the biennium.
Numerous issues remain for continuing study and resolution. Service guidelines should be developed. Long-term administrative responsibility should be determined. The creation of a commission or board to provide oversight should be considered.