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Program Profile

Queens (NY) Treatment Court

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study Effective - One study

Program Description

Program Goals

The Queens Treatment Court (QTC) is a drug court program for first-time nonviolent felony drug offenders who are arrested in Queens County, New York. The court seeks to reduce recidivism among persistent drug offenders with a history of substance abuse by providing them with drug or alcohol treatment services. The mission of QTC is to provide offenders with the tools necessary for long-term sobriety, using court-supervised treatment and case management services as an alternative to incarceration.

 

Target Population/Eligibility

Defendants are paper eligible for QTC if they are arrested on drug felony charges but do not have a prior felony conviction or a prior violent misdemeanor conviction. The most serious (A–1 and A–2) felony drug charges are excluded. Potential eligible cases are screened at arraignment by an Assistant District Attorney (ADA).

 

A case manager from the Treatment Alternative for Safer Community (TASC), an independent agency used for case management services by many court-mandated treatment programs in New York City, performs a clinical assessment of paper-eligible defendants. Cases may be rejected if the assessment finds that defendants do not need drug treatment, if defendants refuse the treatment plan, or if defendants appear to have a co-occurring mental illness. TASC does, however, see current illegal drug use, even at low levels, as a potential gateway to future addictive behavior. Therefore, at-risk defendants who currently use illegal drugs but may not yet be an addict are eligible even if drug use is infrequent, such as three times per week or even just one or two times per month. If a defendant is found to be eligible based on the clinical assessment, they plead guilty to the drug charge and enter the drug court program.

 

Program Components

The QTC uses a postplea adjudication model, which means defendants plead guilty to an eligible drug charge before participating in the program. A standard formula is used by the court to determine the severity of the top charge in the plea agreement. Participants also agree to a sentence of incarceration that is served if they fail out of the program and treatment is not completed. Typical sentences can range from 1 to 3 years, depending on the individual’s criminal history.

 

After being accepted into the program, all participants must agree to the same treatment mandate, which requires at least 12 months of participation in QTC, divided into three phases of treatment. Each phase of treatment requires 4 consecutive sanctionless months before participants can move on to the next phase. The program does not require all counted time in each phase be drug free; rather, the emphasis is on sanctionless time. This means that if the court decides not to sanction a particular infraction, such as a positive urine test, the participant will not lose time.

 

QTC participants are also required to appear in drug court each week for the 1st month of the program, which is gradually downgraded to an appearance every 2 weeks, then every 4 weeks. Usually by phase 2 of treatment, participants report to court on a monthly basis. During court appearances, the judge will ask participants about their progress in treatment and any problems they may be having. Judges will impose sanctions on participants that are not complying with the treatment mandate.

 

Case managers develop an appropriate treatment plan for each participant, based on the duration and frequency of drug use, primary drug of choice, living situation, family support, and criminal history. Participants are referred to one of more than 40 community-based treatment programs spanning all modalities (such as residential, short-term rehabilitation, and intensive outpatient). The treatment plan also includes requirements for regular drug and alcohol testing, medical screening, attendance at educational or vocational programs, and participation in self-help groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (or NA). While in treatment, participants also set goals to improve other parts of their lives, such as education, employment, and reconnecting with family.

 

In the event a participant is not in compliance with program requirements or is arrested for a new charge, QTC has a formal sanctions schedule, although the schedule is more advisory, and drug court judges frequently make case-by-base decisions. A new felony arrest will always result in failure from the program, as will repeated noncompliance or opting out.

 

Key Personnel

The QTC began through the collaboration of the Queen’s District Attorney’s Office, the Legal Aid Society, the Queens County Supreme Court, the New York State Unified Court System, and the Office of the Chief Administrative Judge of New York City in response to the increasing percentage of first-time drug felony cases that accounted for criminal court arraignments in Queens.

 

TASC performs all of the case management functions, including assessment, treatment matching, and ongoing monitoring. The QTC resource coordinator is crucial in maintaining interstaff coordination of the program. Every morning, the resource coordinator meets with the TASC case managers to review the court calendar and discuss problems with any of the program participants. The resource coordinator also meets with the judge to review the calendar and make decisions on treatment promotions and sanctions.

 

The drug court team additionally includes the project director, the judge, the judge’s law clerk, the ADA, and defense attorneys. This team, along with the TASC case managers and resource coordinator, meets every week to focus on a select number of problem cases and to discuss any outstanding programmatic issues.

 

Additional Information

This program is different from the Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Court, which focuses on providing treatment services for nonfelony (misdemeanor) drug offenders.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1

The study by Rempel and colleagues (2003) found that participation in New York’s Queens Treatment Court (QTC) had a significant impact on recidivism rates. In fact, the QTC program produced one of the largest recidivism impacts of any drug court nationwide that has been evaluated to date of the study.

 

Postarrest Recidivism

After 1 year, only 10 percent of QTC participants had a new arrest that led to a conviction, versus 31 percent of the comparison group. After 2 years, the difference was 18 percent, compared to 42 percent for the comparison group; after three years, the difference grew to 29 percent versus 55 percent. The results show that after 1 year, the recidivism rate of QTC participants was less than one third as high as the recidivism rate of comparison group members, and by 3 years, QTC still reduced the recidivism rate of participants by near half, reducing it by 47 percent from the initial comparison group level.

 

When examining the number of recidivist convictions, the comparison group had more than twice as many convictions by the 3-year mark. Among study participants who had at least one reconviction during the 3-year study time period, QTC participants remained crime free for significantly longer. Comparison group members who recidivated averaged only 319 days from initial arrest to first rearrest leading to a conviction, while drug court participants who recidivated averaged 543 days. Thus, participation in QTC led to consistently dramatic positive impacts on the probability, prevalence, and timing of recidivism.

 

With regard to specific charges, QTC participants were one third less likely to have a new felony conviction (12 percent, versus 36 percent of the comparison group), and less likely to have a drug-related conviction (19 percent of participants, versus 43 percent of comparison group members).

 

Multivariate analysis confirmed the strong impact of the QTC program on recidivism measures. Despite the program's strong impact, prior criminal conviction and age remained powerful predictors of recidivism (defendants with a prior misdemeanor conviction and younger defendants were more likely to recidivate, whether they participated in the drug court program or not). Survival analysis showed that at the 1-year mark, 90 percent of QTC participants had survived (i.e., avoided rearrest), but just 66 percent of the comparison group had survived. The difference between the groups continued through years 2 and 3, suggesting a long-term impact of QTC. By year 3, 71 percent of program participants had survived, compared to 45 percent of comparison group members.

 

Postprogram Recidivism

This analysis looked at recidivism after participation in QTC ended. Looking at in-program and postprogram recidivism for QTC participants only, there was no difference between the two time periods. Exactly 88 percent of participants were crime-free in both periods, and the average total convictions were almost the same (0.15 for the in-program period and 0.16 for the postprogram period). The results are contrary to expectations that recidivism would increase once the program ended.

 

Looking at the postprogram period recidivism rates for program participants and comparison group members, QTC again demonstrated a strong impact on reoffending. The recidivism rates for participants were reduced by more than 50 percent from the comparison group level (25 percent of comparison group members had a new conviction, versus 12 percent of drug court participants). When looking at specific charges, 11 percent of comparison group members had new felony convictions, compared to only 4 percent of QTC participants. On misdemeanor and drug-related convictions, 8 percent of program participants and 16 percent of comparison group members had a new conviction, indicating exactly 50 percent reduction in these types of reoffending.

 

Among QTC participants, drug court graduates were less likely to recidivate compared to drug court failures. One year after program completion, 8 percent of graduates had a new conviction, compared to 22 percent of failures. QTC graduates were also less likely than failures to be arrested for a felony, misdemeanor, and drug-related offense. Furthermore, drug court failures showed similar recidivism rates of the comparison group, showing that the benefits of participating in QTC are primarily experienced by those who graduate from the program. The QTC has a high graduate rate (about 71 percent), so there is a net reduction in the probability of recidivism for most participants, while the remaining 29 percent are no worse off than the average comparison group member.

 

Consistent with the multivariate analysis of the postarrest results, logistic regression confirmed the strong impact of participating in QTC on whether a reconviction occurred at 1 year post program. Defendants with a prior misdemeanor conviction and younger defendants were also significantly more likely to be reconvicted.

 

Recidivism for Select Offender Subgroups

Overall, QTC led to reduced recidivism, but the aggregate results did not show whether certain subgroups of offenders performed better than others relative to the comparison group. The analysis of specific offender subgroups showed that QTC produced a 66 percent reduction in recidivism for participants with prior misdemeanor convictions (versus a 35 percent reduction for participants without priors) and a 53 percent recidivism reduction for participants 26 years and older (versus 38 percent reduction of recidivism of participants younger than 26 years old). As the results show, the QTC had significant impacts for all participants, but the magnitude of the impact become even relatively larger for some subgroups of offenders.

 

To confirm the results, several logistic regressions were performed, looking at 3-year postarrest data. The outcomes of the regressions showed that overall, QTC participants were less likely than comparison group members to reoffend at 3 years after arrest and participants with one or more prior misdemeanor convictions were especially less likely than comparison group members to reoffend.

 

Although the results suggest that participation in QTC is most effective with a population of offenders that does have a prior criminal record, the drug court program does not target such a population. Defendants with prior felony convictions are not eligible to participate in QTC. Thus, the drug court program could have a greater impact if the program targeted more defendants with a prior criminal record.

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1

Rempel and colleagues (2003) assessed the effects of participating in the Queens Treatment Court (QTC) in New York, using a pre–post design that compared program participants to similar defendants arrested just prior to the opening of the drug court. The comparison group initially included 945 defendants arrested in Queens on a top charge of criminal sale or criminal possession in the third degree in the year prior to QTC’s opening in May 1998. The drug court group initially included all 389 participants who had been arrested by June 2000 (which would allow for a 2-year postarrest recidivism analysis, since data was available through June 2002). Propensity score matching was used to eliminate or reduce any differences between the drug court and comparison groups. Each participant was matched to a comparison group member with the nearest, if not identical, propensity score.

 

After completing the matching process, 340 drug court participants were matched to 312 comparison defendants. The final drug court sample was 81 percent male, and 54 percent African American, 30 percent Hispanic, and 16 percent white or “other,” with an average age of 27.2 years. The comparison group was 82 percent male, and 61 percent African American, 28 percent Hispanic, and 12 percent white or “other,” with an average age of 26.6 years. There were no significant differences between the final study groups.

 

Recidivism data was obtained from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. The data set provided comprehensive criminal record information, including criminal history and recidivism, as of June 30, 2002. Recidivism was defined as a new arrest that leads to conviction. The analysis looked at recidivism over postarrest and postprogram time periods. The postarrest time period begins at the time of the arrest that either led to drug court participation or comparison group membership. The postprogram period begins at different starting points for study participants. For drug court graduates, the postprogram period begins on the graduation date. For drug court failures, the period begins on the estimated release date from jail or prison, and for comparison group members, the period begins on the estimated release date (or, if there was no incarceration sentence, on the disposition date).

 

However, there were methodological limitations when examining recidivism over the postprogram time period: A portion of the drug court group had not achieved the requisite year of postprogram time, for two reasons. First, it takes drug court participants 1 year to complete the program and another year of postprogram time before the analysis can be done. Second, program participants who fail are usually sentenced to 1 year in jail, and the postprogram count does not begin until their release. There were also a number of participants who had not reached final status (graduation or failure) as of the analysis date. Therefore, the final status of drug court participants in the impact sample was determined as of Nov. 3, 2002 (prior to the analysis date). For participants who had not yet graduated or failed as of this date, background characteristics were used to predict whether they were more likely to graduate or fail. This method was only used to impute graduation or failure status for 14 drug court participants, however—4.1 percent of the sample.

 

The graduation rate was estimated at 71.2 percent, based on the known final status of 326 drug court participants (95.9 percent). Only 201 participants were available for the 1-year postprogram analysis (160 graduates and 41 failures). The disproportionately high number of graduates required the number of graduates to be weighted so as to contribute 71.2 percent toward all postprogram recidivism for drug court participants and the 41 failures to be weighted so as to contribute 28.8 percent.

 

The study used bivariate comparisons and multivariate analysis, including logistic regression, negative bionomial analysis, and survival analysis. Over the postarrest period, the analysis examined the probability of at least one new conviction; the total number of new convictions; the probability of at least one new conviction for three types of charges (felony, misdemeanor, and drug-related); the specific conviction charges in the first reconviction; the number of crime-free days prior to the first rearrest that led to a conviction; and survival patterns over the total time period. Over the postprogram period, the analysis looked at the probability of at least one new conviction and the probability of at least one new conviction for each of three types of charges (felony, misdemeanor, and drug-related).

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Cost

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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.
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/whatsnew/pdf/NYSAdultDrugCourtEvaluation.pdf
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Additional References

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

Porter, Rachel. 2000. Implementing a Drug Court in Queens County: A Process Evaluation. New York, N.Y.: The Vera Institute of Justice.
http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/queensdrugcourt.pdf
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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated 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.

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: 18+

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, Individual Therapy, Vocational/Job Training, Wraparound/Case Management, Motivational Interviewing

Targeted Population: First Time Offenders, Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Offenders

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Campbell Collaboration

Program Director:
Queens Treatment Court
125–01 Queens Blvd.
Kew Gardens NY 11415
Phone: 718.298.1301

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