Program Goals/Program Theory
The Oregon Drug Courts offer an alternative to a traditional court by providing intensive and comprehensive management of drug offenders, through increased treatment, monitoring and interaction with the Drug Court Judge, to achieve reductions in reoffending and better drug treatment outcomes for substance users. Reduced recidivism and improved treatment outcomes also help to achieve significant reductions in future costs to the criminal justice system and the health care system while increasing public safety.
Drug courts differ from the traditional criminal justice process by including a strong treatment and supervisory component to the offender’s sanction. The objective is to treat the underlying substance abuse issues, which are related to continued criminal activity. By acting upon offenders’ addiction problems, the drug courts aim to prevent future offending and reduce recidivism.
The target population of the Oregon Drug Courts is offenders who have substance use problems. Referrals to the drug court are made by defense attorneys, prosecutors, and probation officers. The exact eligibility criteria vary from county to county.
Participation in the drug courts is voluntary. In Douglas County, Ore., for example, the deputy District Attorney working with the drug court screens defendants upon arrest and identifies those who meet the program criteria, which vary by particular drug court. After the program is explained to them, defendants have 2 weeks to decide whether to accept or decline entry into the Drug Court program. Those who are eligible but decline are routed through the traditional criminal justice system.
The program uses a nonconfrontational arrangement between defense attorneys and the prosecution to determine the best course of action for offenders while maintaining their right to due process. A treatment specialist assesses the participant to establish a treatment plan. To graduate from the program, the participant is expected to meet all the treatment objectives and undergo drug screening, including intensive abstinence monitoring for at least 6 months. The participant is also expected to attend a set number of Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous (or AA/NA) meetings and have regular meetings with the drug court judge. While individual interventions are adapted to the offender after assessment by treatment professionals, the program requirements also vary by county, depending on how the program is implemented.
The program consists of at least 1 year of:
· Intensive treatment and other services required for the participant to get and stay clean and sober
· Participant accountability to the drug court judge for meeting obligations to the court, society, themselves, and their families
· Regular and random testing for drug use
· Frequent court appearances with the drug court judge to review progress
Participants receive rewards for doing well or sanctions for not meeting requirements. Again, these vary by drug court.
The drug courts team varies, depending on how the program is implemented. Commonly, the key personnel consist of defense attorneys, prosecutors, drug court judges, treatment specialists, law enforcement officers, and case managers.