- Report Published -
|A Study of Virginia's Drug Court Programs|
|Department of Criminal Justice Services|
|SJR 399 (Regular Session, 1999)|
|FIRST YEAR OF THE STUDY|
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. Twelve drug court programs are currently operating in Virginia with two more in planning status and seeking implementation funds. An additional twelve jurisdictions are participating in the federally sponsored Drug Court Planning Initiative during FY2000 and FY2001. 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 and the cost of drug court program participation, the cost effectiveness of effective drug court programming is readily apparent.
SJR 399, directed lithe 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 state Special Funds.
• The Commonwealth should continue funding for established drug court programs.
• State Special 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 (DCJS) should be directed to provide administrative oversight and funding for locally operated drug court programs for the biennium.
SECOND YEAR OF THE STUDY
The Secretary of Public Safety released the report of the first year's findings as an "interim" report, recognizing the action of the General Assembly (Item 462, B.3 of the 2000 Appropriations Act) to continue the study.
Because of the timing of the release of the Interim Report, all of the earlier questions and recommendations, together with much of the discussion, are replicated in this Final Report for purposes of completeness.
Primary among the issues which generated discussion upon release of the "discussion draft" were:
• The interim report had options, but no specific recommendation, on long-term administrative oversight of the Drug Court Treatment Program, for consideration by the General Assembly. The Program had been placed temporarily under the oversight of the Department of Criminal Justice Services for FY 01 and FY 02. Additional consideration was given to which branch of government and agency or entity therein should provide continuing oversight to this program.
• State funding for the Program is currently provided through grants from the IDEA (Intensified Drug Enforcement Assistance) funds. These are state Special Funds, administered by DCJS, with a variety of other purposes. These funds do not currently accumulate quickly enough to provide continuing support for the current drug treatment courts and will certainly not support current courts, new courts, and other funding purposes. How should this program be funded?
• How will future evaluations of this initiative be structured and conducted?
• Drug Court Treatment Programs cannot become operational in all Virginia courts at this time. Is there a problem with a lack of equal access?
• There is no language in the Code enabling or empowering the operation of Drug Treatment Court Programs in the Commonwealth with the exception of Appropriations Act language. Should enabling legislation be enacted?
• Compounding the question of the nature of any enabling legislation are a variety of more discrete concerns voiced after release of the "discussion draft" including such issues as:
* Should these courts be pre- or post-dispositional?
* What service guidelines should be established in legislation?
* Which offenders should be considered eligible for drug court program participation?
The SJR 399 Study Group reinitiated activities in October 2000 and focused on the study of the issues described above through August 2001. The group was restructured to include fewer participants but kept representation of all system components as required by the original resolution.
The continuing study group endorses last year's four recommendations and makes these additional recommendations:
• Recommendation 5: Administrative oversight for the drug courts should be provided by the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia.
• Recommendation 6: Base funding for drug court treatment programs should be provided by the Commonwealth for operational drug court treatment programs.
• Recommendation 7: Localities should seek federal funding for drug court planning and implementation before receiving General Funds. Note: This was the first recommendation of the Interim Report and it has not changed.
• Recommendation 8: Drug court treatment program participants are appropriate clients for community supervision by DOC, DJJ, and locally operated (DCJS funded) community corrections programs.
• Recommendation 9: Until a single agency is charged with state-wide oversight of the Drug Treatment Court program, the OES and DCJS should continue collaboration on a Management Information System specifically tailored to the tracking and evaluation of the Drug Court Treatment programs. Local program evaluation efforts should continue and be encouraged.
• Recommendation 10: Equal access to drug court treatment programming is an ideal that is not possible at this time. As drug courts are evaluated, proven effective, and further accepted, additional funding should be made available for the extension of this treatment model to all courts.
• Recommendation 11: With some limited guidance within enabling legislation, within administrative agency guidelines, and from the State Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee, most decisions regarding pre- or post-dispositional model, local veto authority, participant eligibility, quality assurance, and service guidelines should be left to local decision making.