Program Goals/Key Personnel
The Baltimore City Drug Treatment Court (BCDTC) in Baltimore, Maryland, was created in 1994 in response to a report by the American Bar Association that found that nearly 85 percent of all crimes committed in Baltimore were addiction driven (Bar Association of Baltimore City 1990). The objective of the BCDTC is to identify offenders with substance abuse addiction and offer them a treatment alternative to incarceration. There are four main goals of the BCDTC:
· Provide pretrial, drug-dependent detainees with close supervision
· Allow judges to use a cost-effective sentencing option by providing a fully integrated and comprehensive treatment program
· Reduce recidivism rates of street crime committed by drug-motivated offenders
· Facilitate the academic, vocational, and prosocial skill development of offenders
The drug treatment court team includes a judge, program coordinator, assistant State’s attorney, assistant public defender, parole and probation agents, and treatment providers from Baltimore.
Potential drug court participants are referred to the program from one of two tracks: circuit court felony cases or district court misdemeanor cases. Participants from both courts are supervised by the Baltimore Division of Parole and Probation. An offender must satisfy several requirements to be eligible for participation in BCDTC. Offenders must first admit to substance use and/or show evidence of past substance use charges. They must also reside in Baltimore, be at least 18 years of age, and not have any prior or current convictions for violent offenses.
Eligible offenders meet with the public defender to discuss potential participation. If the public defender and State’s attorney determine the offender is best served by drug treatment court, the offender is sent to the drug court assessment unit. Staff members from this unit administer the Level of Supervision Inventory – Revised (or LSI–R) and Addiction Severity Index (or ASI) to assess the offender’s suitability for the program, and motivation and need for treatment. Once the assessment is complete, the unit staff member decides whether to recommend the offender for the program. If recommended, the offender, State’s attorney, public defender, and probation agent appear before the drug treatment court judge to discuss the case. The judge ultimately renders the final decision of whether an offender will participate in the program.
The BCDTC program consists of four main elements: intensive probation supervision, drug testing, drug treatment, and judicial monitoring. While under intensive supervision, offenders must adhere to three face-to-face meetings with their probation officer per month, two home-visits, and verification of employment status. Probation officers also frequently monitor an offender’s criminal record for violations. After a sustained period of compliance, an offender’s level of supervision can be downgraded from “intensive” to “standard high.”
Drug testing is also performed in a series of phases of decreasing intensity. Phase I, which lasts approximately 3 weeks, requires offenders to submit to two urine samples per week. Phase II, which also lasts about 3 months, requires one sample per week. Phase III, lasting about 6 months in length, requires only one sample per month. After that time, drug testing is completed randomly throughout the remaining time an offender is in drug treatment court.
Drug treatment is provided by several providers throughout the city. Each treatment program varies in terms of treatment components. The providers include intensive outpatient centers, methadone maintenance clinics, residential treatment facilities, and a transitional housing complex. In addition to drug treatment, each program offers educational opportunities, job training, life-skills training, and housing assistance. Offenders are assigned to a program that best serves their treatment needs.
Finally, judicial monitoring takes place in the form of frequent status hearings. The judge reviews reports from treatment providers and probation officers at these hearings to determine an offender’s compliance with the program. Failure to comply with program requirements can result in a variety of sanctions, including increased status hearings, increased drug testing, and curfews. The sanctions can graduate to more severe measures such as home detention, temporary incarceration, and community service. If an offender displays extreme noncompliance with the program, the judge can reimpose the original sentence, which can often be more severe than if the sentence had been imposed under traditional adjudication.
To graduate from the program, offenders must be employed, have completed 20 hours of community service, have participated in the program for a minimum of 12 months, and have at least 9 months of clean urine samples.