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New Jersey Judiciary. Presentation to the New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing February 15, 2006. Overview of the Adult Drug Court Program. Definition of a Drug Court.

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new jersey judiciary

New Jersey Judiciary

Presentation to the New Jersey

Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing

February 15, 2006

Overview of the Adult

Drug Court Program

definition of a drug court
Definition of a Drug Court

Drug Courts are a highly specialized court process that functions within the existing Superior Court structure to address the nonviolent drug addicted offender.

essential elements of a drug court
Essential Elements of a Drug Court
  • Nonadversarial process
  • Nontraditional courtroom dynamic
  • Intensive probation supervision
  • Frequent and random drug testing
  • Treatment partners with the CJS
  • Focus on collaboration among agencies and other parts of the court system
  • Holistic approach to dealing with the drug addicted criminal offender
the drug court team
The Drug Court Team
  • Superior Court Judge
  • Assistant Prosecutor
  • Assistant Deputy Public Defender
  • Drug Court Coordinator
  • Team Leader
  • Substance Abuse (TASC) Evaluator
  • Treatment Provider(s)
  • Probation Supervisor
  • Probation Officers
how is drug court different
How is Drug Court Different?
  • Traditional Court
  • Event-oriented Offense-specific
  • Determination of guilt and sentencing are the end of the process
  • Process identical for all offenders
  • Judicial interaction exists primarily with the representatives of the parties
  • Responsibility equals atonement and punishment
  • Post-adjudication monitoring is designed to enforce conditions and uncover violations
  • Judge is the neutral agent among various competitors
  • Legal history supporting this system is approx. 400 years old; change is difficult
how is drug court different6
How is Drug Court Different?

Drug Court

Process-oriented Behavior-specific

  • Identification of addiction and referral to drug court is the beginning of the process
  • Process is focused on the individual offender
  • Judicial interaction exists directly with the offender
  • Responsibility equals behavioral changes designed to reduce conflict by reducing addictive behavior
  • Post-adjudication monitoring is designed to reinforce treatment
  • Judge is an active participant in the partnership between the offender and the team
  • Legal history supporting this systems is 10 years old; change is relatively easy
eligibility determination a two step process
Eligibility Determination: A two-step process
  • Applicants must be legally screened and clinically assessed before acceptance
  • LEGAL ELIGIBILITY – Prosecutor’s recommendation on legal acceptability
  • CLINICAL ELIGIBILITY – TASC Evaluators conduct a clinical assessment of substance abuse dependency and appropriate treatment recommendations
offense convictions of dc participants
Offense Convictions of DC Participants
  • 93% of participants would have received a sentence in NJ state prison were it not for drug court.
  • 25% of prison-bound, direct-sentence participants were convicted of school zone offenses.
  • 64% of prison-bound, direct-sentence participants were convicted of a drug offense.
statutory provisions
Statutory Provisions
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 - The mandatory minimum exposure provided Drug Courts with the “hammer” of coercive treatment
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14 provided some school zone offenders with the opportunity to enter drug court, however,
  • The restrictions of the statute severely limit the impact on urban and minority offenders
  • Many prosecutors are now applying the provisions to non-school zone cases, further restricting the applicant pool for drug court
n j s a 2c 35 14
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14


Defendants with 2 or more priors of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Degree except simple possession


  • Many drug offenders who may be ready to try sobriety have multiple priors due to the nature of addiction
  • Those who are eligible tend to be younger and are more difficult to treat in drug court
n j s a 2c 35 1412
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14


Defendants must complete a minimum of 6 months in residential treatment


Eliminates the alternative sentence for offenders who are unsuitable for residential treatment

  • Defendants with a less severe addiction
  • Defendants not acceptable to residential providers (physically handicapped)
  • Wastes residential beds that could be used for addicts needing that level of care
n j s a 2c 35 1413
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14


Defendants on “Special Probation” must serve full five years with no early discharge


  • Five year provision is a deterrent to many offenders
  • Eliminates a powerful incentive to do well
  • Diverts probation resources that could be used for high risk offenders in early recovery
unintended consequences
Unintended Consequences
  • Since 4/1/02, 1,109 nonviolent drug offenders have been rejected from participation in Drug Court due to “statutory” reasons; many would have been otherwise eligible for drug court (66% of these applicants are minorities).
  • Since 4/1/02, 221 non-violent substance dependent offenders have been rejected from participation in Drug Court because they were not addicted enough to be suitable for 6 months of residential treatment (68% of these applicants are minorities).
what if we put them in prison
What if we put them in prison?

Criminal Recidivism*

  • 43.5 are rearrested within 1 year
  • 58.6 are rearrested within 2 years

Relapse to Drug Abuse**

  • 85% relapse within first year
  • 95% relapse within 3 years

*National Institute of Justice

** National Institute of Health


The Problem

NJ has the highest known proportion of prisoners incarcerated for drug offenses in the country (36% compared to the national average of 20%); 63% of inmates in New Jersey state prisons are African American.

NJ spends more to incarcerate drug offenders than a third of the country’s states spend on their entire corrections budget.

Traditional criminal justice system responses to drug offenders have been ineffective in breaking the cycle of drugs and crime. NIJ estimates that 43.5% of drug offenders are rearrested in the first year of their release; 58.6% within the second year.

why drug courts for new jersey
Why Drug Courts for New Jersey?
  • Drug Courts address drug offender recidivism by dealing with the underlying problem: drug addiction.
  • 36% of New Jersey’s inmate population consists of drug offenders – 80% higher than the national average.
  • Drug Courts are a cost effective alternative to prison.
  • Coercive treatment works.
  • Coordinating treatment and supervision has been proven to be much more effective in reducing drug use and recidivism than treatment alone or supervision alone.
the judge effect 1
“The Judge Effect”1
  • Research indicates high-risk offenders do appreciably better under judicial supervision.2
  • 80% of participants generally believe that the involvement of the drug court judge is critical to their success in the program.
  • Research suggests that subjects that are legally coerced into treatment perform as well or better than voluntary admissions.3

1 Satel, S.,” Study of Courtroom Dynamics In Selected Drug Courts,” National Drug Court Institute Review. Vol. 1:1 (1998).

2 Marlowe, D. “Are Judicial Status Hearings a Key Component of Drug Court? Six and twelve month outcomes,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 79 (2005).

3 Farabee, C. “Efficacy of coercion in substance abuse treatment,” Relapse and Recovery in Addictions pp 208-227 (2001).

eligibility for drug court
Eligibility for Drug Court
  • Non-violent substance abusing offenders charged with a criminal offense in the Superior Court
  • Drug court targets offenders who, were it not for their substance abuse, may never have been involved with the criminal justice system
who is not eligible for drug court
Who is Not Eligible for Drug Court*
  • Offenders whose current or any other pending charges involve a violent offense;
  • Offenders who have a prior conviction for a violent crime;
  • Offenders motivated by profit, not addiction;
  • Offenders who use juveniles for drug distribution.

*Other criteria apply. Please refer to the State of New Jersey

Manual for Operation of Adult Drug Courts at:

new jersey statewide program
New Jersey Statewide Program
  • 5 grant funded pilot counties: Camden, Essex, Mercer, Passaic and Union
  • Chief Justice asked Presiding Judges to investigate drug courts for expansion
  • PJ’s report recommended drug courts as a best practice in New Jersey
  • On 9/6/01, legislation was signed to appropriate funding to implement the statewide program (P.L. 2001, c.243)
  • The NJ Adult Drug Courts began operating as a “statewide program” on 4/1/02.
3 phase implementation project
3 Phase Implementation Project
  • September, 2001: Transfer grant funded pilots to state funding: Camden; Essex; Mercer; Passaic; Union
  • 5 new court vicinages began on 4/1/02: Bergen; Cumberland/ Gloucester/ Salem; Monmouth; Morris/ Sussex; Ocean
  • Final 5 vicinages began on 9/1/04: Atlantic/Cape May; Burlington; Hudson; Middlesex; Somerset/Hunterdon/Warren
nj adult drug courts
NJ Adult Drug Courts
  • No. of Current Active Participants: 2,256
  • Percent of Minority Participants: 64%
  • No. of Program Graduates: 476
  • No. of Participants in Final Phase: 421
  • Percent Employed Full-Time while in DC: 74%
  • Percent Employed FT by Graduation: 92%
  • Percent of Negative Drug Tests 96%

(Out of 104,735 tests conducted since 4/1/02)

success of nj drug courts
Success of NJ Drug Courts

Since the Statewide Program Began on 4/1/02:

  • 45 Babies were born drug-free to previously drug-addicted mothers.
  • Drug court participants regained custody of at least 42 minor children due to their successful participation in drug court. Some of these children had been in foster care.
success of nj adult drug courts
Success of NJ Adult Drug Courts

The NIJ1 estimated that recidivism among a nationally representative sample of drug court graduates was 16.4% the first year after graduation and 27.5% two years after graduation.

Current Statistics on 493 Drug Court Graduates w/in 3 years of Graduation

  • 14% re-arrested for indictable offenses;
  • 6% convicted of new indictable offenses; and
  • 4% sentenced to New Jersey State Prison

1 “Estimate of Drug Court Recidivism Rates,” conducted by the Urban Institute for the National Institute of Justice in 2004

2 Recidivism study conducted by AOC Criminal Practice on 1/31/06

participant benefits before and after
Participant Benefits: Before and After
  • The percentage of participants employed rose from 27% to 92%.
  • The percentage of participants with a valid drivers license rose from 28% to 52%.
  • 13% of graduates raised their level of education or vocational skills.
  • The percentage of participants covered by medical insurance was raised from 13% to 47%.
  • The 445 drug court graduates studied have a total of 539 minor children.
financial impact of drug courts
Financial Impact of Drug Courts

Drug courts achieve direct cost savings for the justice system by reducing incarceration rates.

Incarcerating an adult for one year costs up to $37,000*. The first year of drug court, when most treatment costs are borne, costs between $5,400 and $19,500 depending upon the type of treatment.

The total court imposed fines, fees and (DEDR and VCCB) penalties paid by the 445 graduates studied is over one-half million dollars

* Additional administrative costs included. Figures estimated by AOC.

other cost savings can occur when
Other cost savings can occur when:
  • Participants become employed, support their families and pay taxes;
  • Custody of minor children is regained, reducing the cost of foster care;
  • Babies are born without drug addiction, eliminating the short and long term medical cost of treating drug addicted infants;
  • Participant visits to emergency rooms are reduced.
Every dollar spent on treatment leads to a $7.46 reduction in crime-related spending and lost productivity, according to a study conducted for the Office of Nat’l Drug Control Policy.


“The State of Drug Court Research” (2005)

Research Findings: “Little is known about which categories of defendants are most likely to benefit from the drug court intervention; but three have emerged as likely candidates: (a) “high-risk” offenders, (b) those facing greater legal consequences for failing drug court, and (c) drug offenders (as opposed to offenders arrested for property crimes and other offenses).”

New Jersey Drug Courts:

Since the pilot program days, the NJ Adult Drug Courts have focused primarily on prison diversion, with intensive supervision of high-risk, nonviolent drug offenders.



“The State of Drug Court Research” (2005)

Researchers found:

Drug Court retention rates far exceed those for the general treatment population. One review estimates that drug courts nationwide have an average one-year retention rate of 60%

New Jersey Drug Courts:

The New Jersey Adult Drug Court Statewide Program cumulative retention rate after almost 4 years is 69%


What Works in Drug Court?

In a 2002 study, Dr. Faye Taxman found that half of the drug courts reported that they have non-clinical staff screen clients for drug treatment court eligibility and that “while drug courts are designed to integrate services across systems, few courts have developed such an approach.” A well structured clinical assessment process was deemed essential for positive outcomes.

New Jersey Drug Courts:

The New Jersey Judiciary employs substance abuse (TASC) evaluators who provide the courts with the benefit of bridging the court and treatment systems. The drug court process begins with a professional clinical assessment.


Term of Supervision

Researchers have identified a phenomenon in many drug courts that suggests that the typical one-year term of supervision is inadequate to address the needs of many drug court participants; in practice, most participants remain enrolled well beyond the one-year program length.8

New Jersey Drug Courts:

A search of all available sources indicates that New Jersey adult drug courts supervise participants longer than any other drug court program.

8 Marlowe, D. “Amenability to Treatment of Drug Offenders” (2003)


What Works in Drug Court?

Researchers found:

The length of time a patient spends in treatment is a reliable predictor of his or her post-treatment performance

New Jersey Adult Drug Courts:

Provide comprehensive substance abuse treatment through a cooperative agreement with the Division of Addiction Services; All treatment modalities and levels of care are available to participants; the recent inclusion of enhanced services (i.e. psychiatric evaluations) should improve outcomes

The modalities and duration of the treatment interventions used meets or exceeds those recommended by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.


Quality Control

In A National Center for State Courts publication, Dr. Cary Heck reported: “standardized statewide case management systems can assist localities and states in the measurement of drug court performance” and “as the drug court movement continues to flourish, the need for standardized and consistent data management continues.”

New Jersey Adult Drug Courts:

New Jersey is in the forefront of state-level drug court program management. The NJ Judiciary has enhanced existing mainframe systems in order to capture drug court related data on a county and state level.