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Program Profile: Brooklyn (NY) Treatment Court

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study Effective - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 08, 2011

Program Summary

A drug court that offers substance abuse treatment for nonviolent felony and misdemeanor drug offenders. The program is rated Effective. The study found a reduction in postarrest recidivism and a significantly lower probability of reconviction than the comparison group.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Brooklyn Treatment Court (BTC) is the first drug court in New York City that offers substance abuse treatment for nonviolent felony and misdemeanor drug offenders. Through court-monitored treatment for eligible defendants, the court aims to break the cycle of addiction, crime, and incarceration. BTC uses a postplea model in which defendants plead guilty to an eligible drug charge before participating in the drug court and agree to a specific jail or prison sentence to be served in the event of program failure. Upon graduation, the plea is vacated, and the case, dismissed.

Target Population/Eligibility
BTC begins with an automatic screening process at arraignment. Paper-eligible cases (cases that involve defendants arrested on drug felony charges within Brooklyn) are identified and referred to BTC for legal and clinical screening. The legal screening is used to determine whether a case involves heavy trafficking as opposed to sales to support a drug habit, sales that occurred inside a store, and sales that occurred near school property. For cases found legally eligible, the clinical screening is conducted by an onsite case manager to determine whether the defendant has a drug addiction and whether certain other criteria are met (such as U.S. legal residence and no severe co-occurring physical or mental illness).

Depending on the charges in the plea agreement and the defendant’s prior criminal history, BTC participants must agree to one of four treatment mandates: misdemeanor, first felony, multiple felony, or predicate felony. The treatment mandates determine the minimum length of participation in BTC and the amount of time defendants must serve if they fail the program. For example, defendants who plead guilty to a misdemeanor are mandated to a minimum of 8 months in BTC and face 6 months in jail if they fail. In addition to the time requirements, defendants who plead guilty to a misdemeanor must complete two community service projects; all other defendants must complete three.

Each treatment mandate is divided into three distinct phases of treatment. All three phase minimums must be completed as consecutive drug-free and sanctionless time. To complete phase 1, for example, a defendant must complete 4 consecutive months of treatment and remain drug free and sanctionless. If a participant does receive a positive drug test or a sanction, the time count starts over at month 0. This makes it more challenging for defendants to complete phase 1 than to simply total 4 cumulative months of treatment time.

BTC participants must also agree to a treatment plan that specifies an initial assignment to a specific treatment modality, such as detoxification, residential, intensive outpatient, methadone maintenance, or halfway house. Once participation begins, the court can change the treatment plan as deemed appropriate and necessary.

Services Provided
A case management team is responsible for all key clinical decisions, including eligibility, initial treatment plan, placement in a specific program, and decisions to change the treatment plan during participation. Program participants continue to see their case manager during treatment to discuss progress or problems. During these visits, case managers can provide support for participants doing well with treatment, or, in some cases, provide warnings to those who are doing poorly. Participants are drug tested whenever reporting for a scheduled visit with their case manager.

In addition to visits with a case manager, BTC also requires regular court appearances before the drug court judge. The appearances are usually every 1 to 2 weeks at the beginning of participation, and then monthly thereafter. The judge is in charge of administering a system of graduated rewards and sanctions. Rewards may include verbal encouragement, requests for courtroom applause, or a formal certificate of achievement. The judge may sanction a participant by requiring extra court visits, reassigning participants to a more intensive treatment modality, or ordering a temporary jail stay. BTC has a formal schedule to help standardize and clearly convey to participants the likely consequences of each type of infraction; the judge, however, can deviate from the schedule on a case-by-case basis.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Postarrest Recidivism
Rempel and colleagues (2003) found that participation in the Brooklyn Treatment Court (BTC) reduced recidivism by 27 percent after 3 years and by 18 percent after 4 years, relative to the comparison group level. For those who did recidivate at least once, the average number of days to the first rearrest within 4 years was 524 days for BTC participants, compared to 391 days for the comparison group. With respect to specific charges, after 3 years, BTC participants were about half as likely as the comparison group to have a new felony conviction; the difference continued and remained significant at 4 years as well. BTC participants were also less likely to have a new misdemeanor and new drug conviction at both 3 and 4 years.

Multivariate analysis allowed the study authors to control for the significant differences between the treatment and comparison group on three variables (prior felony conviction, sex, and race/ethnicity). After controlling for background characteristics, BTC participants still had a significantly lower probability of recidivism at 3 and 4 years. Survival analysis showed that at the 18-month mark, 79 percent of the treatment group but only 66 percent of the comparison group had avoided rearrest, a 13 percent difference. However, by year 4, the difference between the groups had declined, such that 64 percent of the treatment group and 56 percent of the comparison group had avoided rearrest, a difference of only 8 percentage points.

Postprogram Recidivism
The results showed that BTC participants had a significantly lower probability of reconviction than comparison group members at 1 year postprogram (17 percent versus 23 percent, respectively). After 2 years, the magnitude of impact was similar but did not reach statistical significance (28 percent versus 33 percent). The 1-year outcomes show that drug court participation resulted in a 26 percent relative reduction in reoffending. The impact on recidivism was strongest for BTC participants who graduated from the program. Only 6 percent of graduates were reconvicted within the 1 year postprogram and only 11 percent within 2 years. Of the BTC participants who failed, 27 percent had a new conviction within the 1 year, and 46 percent after 2 years.

The logistic regression confirmed results from the bivariate analysis. BTC participation predicted significantly lower recidivism at 1 year. There was a similar positive impact after 2 years, but it was not statistically significant. Drug court participants were also half as likely as the comparison group to have a new felony conviction after 1 year (4 percent versus 8 percent, respectively) but there were no significant differences in misdemeanor or drug-related offending.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Rempel and colleagues (2003) used a quasi-experimental design with propensity-score matching to evaluate the effectiveness of the Brooklyn Treatment Court (BTC). The study included 793 drug court participants arrested in 1997 or 1998, matched to a comparison group of 504 defendants who were arrested in 1997 on a top charge of either criminal sale or criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree and had no contact with BTC.

Propensity scores were obtained from the regression model to improve the comparability of the treatment and comparison groups. Each program participant was matched to a member of the comparison group with the nearest propensity score. Even after the matching process, BTC participants were still more likely to be female, without a prior felony conviction, non-Hispanic, and white. The final drug court sample was 60 percent male, and 56 percent African American, 36 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent white/other, with an average age of 33.5 years. The comparison group was 72 percent male, and 54 percent black, 42 percent Hispanic, and 4 percent white/other. Average age was 32.4 years.

The study examined recidivism over both postarrest and postprogram periods. The postarrest period begins at the time of the arrest that led either to drug court participation or comparison group membership. The follow-up periods extended to 3 and 4 years postarrest. The postprogram period begins on the graduation date for program graduates, on the estimated release date from jail or prison for program failures, and on the estimated release date or the disposition date for comparison group members. The postprogram period extended to 1 and 2 years.

Recidivism was measured only if a new arrest led to a conviction. Recidivism data was obtained from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. The study examined data using bivariate analysis and multivariate analysis (including survival analysis and logistic regression models).
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Rempel, Michael, Dana Fox–Kralstein, Amanda Cissner, Robyn Cohen, Melissa Labriola, Donald Farole, Ann Bader, and Michael Magnani. 2003. The New York State Adult Drug Court Evaluation: Policies, Participants, and Impacts. New York, N.Y.: Center for Court Innovations, 157–78.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Harrell, Adele, John Roman, and Emily Sack. 2001. Drug Court Services for Female Offenders, 1996-1999: Evaluation of the Brooklyn Treatment Court. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute. (This study was reviewed but did not meet criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)

New York State Unified Court System. 2009. “Brooklyn Treatment Court.” Accessed Jan. 19, 2011.

Rempel, Michael and Christine D. DeStefano. 2002. “Predictors of Engagement in Court-Mandated Treatment.” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 33(4):87–124.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Adult Drug Courts
Drug courts are specialized courts that combine drug treatment with the legal and moral authority of the court in an effort to break the cycle of drug use and drug related crime. The practice was rated Promising for reducing recidivism; Promising for reducing alcohol and drug-related offenses (with a 13 percent lower rate compared to nonparticipants); but No Effects for reducing multiple substance use.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Drug and alcohol offenses
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Drugs & Substance Abuse - Multiple substances
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Program Snapshot

Age: 19+

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Inpatient/Outpatient, Other Community Setting, Courts

Program Type: Alcohol and Drug Therapy/Treatment, Alternatives to Incarceration, Drug Court

Targeted Population: Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Offenders

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Campbell Collaboration

Program Director:
Joseph Madonia
Program Director
Brooklyn Treatment Court
320 Jay Street
Brooklyn NY 11201
Phone: 347.296.1133
Fax: 347.296.1978

Michael Rempel
Center for Court Innovation
520 Eighth Avenue, 18th Floor
New York NY 10018
Phone: 212.397.3050