Overview of Drug Courts in Texas

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1 Overview of Drug Courts in Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council January 2002 Tony Fabelo, Ph.D. Executive Director

2 Overview of Drug Courts in Texas To view or download this report, visit our website at Criminal Justice Policy Council P.O. Box Austin, Texas (512)

3 Researched and Written By: Alma I. Martinez Michael Eisenberg This project was supported in part by Award No BJ-CX-K011, from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the Criminal Justice Policy Council and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Justice.

4 Note from the Director This report presents an overview of drug treatment courts in Texas. The Texas Legislature in 2001 mandated the creation of drug courts in counties with populations of more than 550,000. The legislature also mandated the Criminal Justice Policy Council (CJPC) to examine the effectiveness of drug courts and make recommendations regarding potential expansion and improvements. Drug courts were designed to provide court-supervised treatment as an alternative to traditional criminal sanctions. The model for drug courts assumes that a combination of judicial monitoring and supervised treatment can be more effective in reducing drug usage and crime than treatment or judicial sanctions operating separately. There are over 600 drug courts in operation in the nation. Drug courts were first established in Texas in Jefferson and Travis counties in Additional courts have since been established in Dallas, El Paso, Montgomery, and Tarrant counties. Under the legislation adopted in 2001, Bexar, Harris and Hidalgo counties will now have to operate a drug court. The Legislature appropriated $750,000 annually for this effort but this appropriation will have to be supplemented with other sources of funding in order for drug courts to operate in nine jurisdictions. The budgets for the presently operating drug courts range from $150,748 in Tarrant to $832,330 in Travis. Drug courts involve the judge and other court officials in a non-adversarial approach to sanction, supervise and provide alcohol and drug treatment services to offenders. Offenders eligible for drug courts are typically non-violent, first-time drug offenders or offenders who have committed a Driving-while-Intoxicated (DWI) offense. In most programs, offenders volunteer for drug courts. Drug court programs range in length from 12 to 18 months, provide courtsupervised treatment and involve the use of progressive sanctions to enforce program compliance. Most programs have an initial period of tolerance for violations followed by a series of escalating sanctions associated with program non-compliance. Depending on the court, program graduation can result in dropped criminal charges, early release from supervision requirements, reduced supervision requirements, or deletion of charges from the participant s criminal record. The drug courts in Dallas, Jefferson, Montgomery, Tarrant and Travis counties are relatively small, with Travis having the largest program capacity with 300 clients in FY 2001 and Tarrant having the smallest capacity with 55 clients. These courts operate mainly with federal and local funds. The implementation approach varies in the different sites in terms of the number of phases and duration of the program, the average number of contacts with court and caseworker personnel and the types of services provided. For example, the Dallas program requires 4 court appearances per month in the first phase of the program while the Tarrant program requires 2 court appearances per month in the first phase. Montgomery county requires the completion of stress management, cognitive-behavioral training and education and employment services while Jefferson county requires participation in employment services and life skills training. i

5 Note from the Director National evaluations of drug courts have shown promising results in terms of lower rearrest and incarceration rates for drug court participants although studies with experimental or comparison groups have been limited. The CJPC will examine in the future whether drug court programs in Texas are operating as originally designed, and more importantly, whether the recidivism rates of drug court participants over a two-year period differ from the recidivism rates of similar offenders who did not participate in a drug court program. The evaluation will lead to recommendations regarding potential expansion and improvements to be presented to the Texas Legislature in Tony Fabelo, Ph.D. Executive Director ii

6 Acknowledgments Special thanks to drug court administrators and drug court judges who have helped us with this report. In particular, we would like to acknowledge the help of Carol Todd and Judge John Creuzot of the Dallas County Drug Court; Patricia Greenspan, Diane Magliolo and Judge Joel Bennett of the Travis County Drug Court; Mark Jennings of the Tarrant County Drug Court; Montie Morgan and Judge Vi McGinnis of the Jefferson County Drug Court; and Rusty Smith and Judge Olen Underwood of the Montgomery County Drug Court.

7 I. Introduction

8 Drug Courts Offer Treatment Alternatives to Traditional Criminal Justice Sanctions Criminal Court Drug Court Objective Punishment Rehabilitation Voluntary No Yes Procedures Adversarial Collaborative Offender Monitored By Incentives for Compliance Disposition Determined By Correction agencies None Offense & criminal history Judge, case managers, and counselors Vary by drug court Compliance with treatment/conditions Public Safety Enhanced During incarceration/supervision During and after program completion Drug Treatment Infrequently ordered Always ordered Drug courts were designed to provide court-supervised treatment as an alternative to traditional criminal sanctions. Drug courts are based on the philosophy that a combination of judicial monitoring and supervised treatment can be more effective in reducing drug usage and crime than treatment or judicial sanctions operating separately. The first drug court in the United States was established in Dade County, Florida in As of May 2001, over 650 adult, juvenile, and family drug courts were operating in the United States. Drug courts were first established in Texas in Travis and Jefferson counties in Additional courts have since been established in Dallas, Montgomery, and Tarrant counties. El Paso county began operating a drug court in August The 77 th Legislature, in House Bill 1287, authorized county Commissioner s Courts to establish drug courts for persons arrested for, charged with, or convicted of certain drug or alcohol offenses. HB 1287 directs the Criminal Justice Policy Council to conduct a study examining the effectiveness of presently operating drug court programs and make recommendations regarding potential expansion and improvements. 3

9 The 77 th Legislature Mandated the Creation of Drug Courts in Counties with Populations of More Than 550,000 County Existing Drug Court County Drug Court Mandated Population* Bexar No Yes 1,392,931 Dallas Yes Yes 2,218,899 El Paso Yes** Yes 679,622 Harris No Yes 3,400,578 Hidalgo No Yes 569,463 Jefferson Yes No 252,051 Montgomery Yes No 293,768 Tarrant Yes*** Yes 1,446,219 Travis Yes Yes 812,280 * Figures from 2000 U.S. Census ** El Paso began operating a drug court in September *** Tarrant re-started drug court program in FY 2001 after funding lapsed. The 77 th Legislature mandated the creation of drug courts in counties with a population of more than 550,000 by September 1, According to 2000 census figures, Bexar, Harris, and Hidalgo counties will be required to initiate drug courts. Dallas, Tarrant, and Travis counties already had drug courts established prior to this legislation. El Paso began operating a drug court in August $1.5 million was appropriated by the legislature for drug courts over the biennium. This money will have to be supplemented with local or federal funds to provide complete funding to all drug courts mandated under this law. Counties that do not establish drug courts as required by the 77 th Legislature will not be eligible to receive funds for community supervision and corrections departments nor grants administered by the Criminal Justice Division of the Governor s Office. Counties are required to apply for federal funds to help pay for the costs of this program. 4

10 State Drug Court Funds Are Administered by the Criminal Justice Division of the Governor s Office 77th Texas Legislature Appropriated $1.5 Million for Drug Courts During FY Criminal Justice Division Designated as Grant Management Agency that Issues Guidelines for Proposals First-Year Funding of $125,000 per Each of the Following Drug Courts: Dallas El Paso Jefferson Montgomery Tarrant Travis The Criminal Justice Division of the Governor s Office awarded $750,000 to six existing drug courts for FY The grant period runs from October 1, 2001, through September 30, Another $750,000 will be available to drug courts for FY Bexar, Harris, and Hidalgo Counties will be eligible to compete for drug court funding in FY 2003, if they meet requirements specified in HB

11 Essential Characteristics of a Drug Court Screening and Assessment Continuum of Treatment Services Integration of Treatment and Judiciary Weekly Drug Testing Monitoring and Evaluation HB 1287 defines a drug court program as having the following essential characteristics: Integration of alcohol and other drug treatment services in the processing of cases in the judicial system; Use of a non-adversarial approach involving prosecutors and defense attorneys to promote public safety and to protect the due process rights of program participants; Early identification and prompt placement of eligible participants in the program; Access to a continuum of alcohol, drug, and other related treatment and rehabilitative services; Monitoring of abstinence through weekly alcohol and other drug testing; A coordinated strategy to govern program responses to participant s compliance; On-going judicial interaction with program participants; Monitoring and evaluation of program goals and effectiveness; Continuing interdisciplinary education to promote effective program planning, implementation, and operations; and Development of partnerships with public agencies and community organizations. Federal funding for drug courts is often contingent on having a plan that incorporates the above ten components. 6

12 Drug Courts Are a Response to Increasing Arrests and Incarcerations for Drug Offenses Arrests in Texas by Type of Offense Year Drug Violent Property ,405 31, , ,566 33, , ,946 34, , ,413 33, , ,953 33, , ,394 32, , ,005 31,549 99, ,362 29,680 96, ,081 27,986 86, ,103 27,223 84, ,646 27,013 82,795 % Change % -14.3% -33.9% The number of persons arrested for drug-related offenses in Texas has steadily increased between 1990 and 2000, while arrests for violent and property offenses have declined. Arrests for drug offenses have increased by over 60% between 1990 and The number of offenders incarcerated in Texas prisons and state jails for drug offenses has increased 272% (from 8,988 to 33,477) between 1990 and 2000, while offenders incarcerated for violent offenses have increased by 204% (from 21,554 to 65,484) and property offenders increased by 121% (from 15,142 to 33,499). The creation of state jails in 1995 and increased bed space in prison since the mid s have allowed for additional offenders to be incarcerated in state facilities. 7

13 National Research on Drug Courts is Favorable but Researchers Cite Need for More Rigorous Long-Term Studies Drug Court Studies Author(s) Deschenes, Turner, and Greenwood Truitt Peters and Murrin Gottfredson, et al. Bavon Kelly Percent Re-Arrested Drug Court Drug Court Comparison Follow-Up Location Participants Group Period Maricopa County, Arizona 31.3% 32.6% 12 months Escambia County, Florida 12% 40% 24 months Okaloosa County, Florida 26% 55% 30 months Baltimore, Maryland 22.6% 27.1% 6 months Tarrant County, Texas 13% 17% 12 months Travis County, Texas 38% 41% 12 months Research has indicated that drug courts offer one approach to reduce arrests and incarceration for drug offenses. Belenko (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2001) has conducted a number of annual reviews of research on drug courts. He has summarized the findings of these studies and reports that: Research on drug courts, in general, has found lower recidivism rates for drug court participants. Research using comparison groups show lower re-arrest and incarceration rates for drug court participants than comparison groups. Research conducting cost analyses indicate that drug courts produce cost savings compared to traditional adjudication. Criminal justice costs (arrests, incarcerations) are lower for drug court cases compared to traditional adjudication. Drug court cases have fewer court appearance and jail costs than similar offenders not participating in drug courts. Researchers caution that, although these studies indicate that drug court participants generally have lower recidivism rates than comparison cases, the differences are frequently not statistically significant. They also note that many of these studies have a number of shortcomings including: Small sample sizes Evaluation of relatively new programs, some designed for low-risk offenders who will have low recidivism rates regardless of program participation Short follow-up periods 8

14 II. Program Statistics for Drug Courts in Texas

15 The First Drug Courts in Texas Were Established in 1993 Texas Drug Court Statistics Dallas Jefferson Montgomery Tarrant* Travis Program January April September October August Start Date Program Capacity From Start of Program through End of FY 2000 Total Clients Ever Enrolled Total Clients Ever Graduated * Statistics for FY ** 54 0** 1, ** Program not in operation long enough for offenders to graduate. Source: CJPC survey of Texas drug courts The goals of drug courts in Texas are to provide court-supervised treatment to reduce drug usage, arrests and recidivism, and to lower costs in the criminal justice system. Costs can be lower as a result of diversion from prison and jail, reduced court processing, and lower recidivism. Drug court programs range in length from 12 to 18 months. Common requirements of drug court programs in Texas include: Attendance at weekly drug court hearings presided over by the judge Participation in treatment, counseling, and AA/NA meetings Drug testing Meeting with case managers to review progress Each drug court also offers services or referrals for other services that the offender may be in need of. These additional services/referrals may include: Family/parenting classes Educational, vocational, and employment services Referrals for medical or mental health services Life skills training Typical staffing patterns of drug courts include a program director, judge, case managers, substance abuse counselors, bailiffs, district attorneys, and public defenders. In general, judges and district attorneys are not funded through the drug court. Case managers monitor client progress, place offenders in counseling, and recommend sanctions and phase changes to the program director and judge. 11

16 Case Processing Statistics of Drug Court Programs in Texas Texas Drug Court Statistics: FY 2000 Dallas Jefferson Montgomery Tarrant* Travis Screened Served Active at End of FY Unsuccessful Terminations Successful Graduations * Statistics for FY ** 0** 95 ** Program not in operation long enough for offenders to graduate. Source: CJPC survey of Texas drug courts In most drug courts, if an offender meets program criteria, drug court staff may offer the drug court option as an alternative to prosecution or traditional criminal justice processing. In general, offender participation in drug courts is voluntary. Program eligibility requires meeting offense and criminal history criteria. Offenses that meet eligibility criteria in drug court programs typically include: possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana, prescription fraud, and sometimes DWI. Some drug courts automatically exclude an offender from participating in drug court for certain violent offenses or prior criminal history. A drug offense alone does not ensure eligibility; chemical dependency or substance abuse must be present. Offenders are screened to determine if they have a substance abuse problem by court staff or other agencies. Offenders screened as having a problem go through a more in-depth assessment process to determine the extent of their addiction/dependence and to facilitate development of an appropriate treatment plan. 12

17 Drug Courts Are Funded Through a Number of Different Sources Drug Court Funding in Texas: FY 2000 Funding Dallas Jefferson Montgomery Tarrant* Travis Budget $543,000 $451,714 $249,960 $150,748 $832,330 Expenditures $368,000 $344,682 $251,870 $111,226** $827,944 Funding Sources During FY 2000 Federal X X X X X State X Local X X X X In-Kind X X X Participants X X X X Participant Fees Collected $41,914 $23,247 $13,154 N/A $53,356 * Statistics for FY ** Expenditures are for first 11 months of FY Source: CJPC survey of Texas drug courts Funding sources for drug courts vary considerably throughout the state. Most drug courts are funded through federal, state, and local sources. In-kind contributions of probation staff, bailiffs, and judges, as well as screening and treatment services, contribute significantly to the operation of drug courts in Texas. Most drug courts also use client fees to supplement funding. At the end of FY 2001, some of the older drug courts that were funded with federal grants were nearing the end of their eligibility for additional federal funding. The drug court program in Tarrant County was re-started in FY 2001 with a Local Law Enforcement Block Grant after funding lapsed in July HB 1287 provided that drug courts may collect certain fees from participants. These fees include: Program fees, not to exceed $1,000, which may be paid on a scheduled basis. Urinalysis testing and counseling fees, based on ability to pay, to cover the costs of testing and counseling. All treatment costs while participating in the program, based on the participant s ability to pay; most drug courts contract with other agencies for treatment services. 13

18 Drug Courts Use a Variety of Sanctions for Program Non-Compliance Type of Non-Compliance Most Common Sanctions Test Positive for Drug Use Community Service or Weekend Jail Absent from Caseworker Meeting Community Service or Verbal Reprimand Absent from Court Appearance Weekend Jail or Up to 21 Days in Jail Absent from Counseling Session Community Service or Additional Counseling Failure to Pay Program Fees Verbal Reprimand or Withhold Graduation New Arrest Termination from Program Before each court session, the judge meets with the caseworkers, district attorney, defense attorney, treatment and other pertinent staff to discuss the progress of offenders appearing that evening. Information regarding each offender is openly exchanged. If the offender is not abiding by his/her contract, suggestions are made as to how to deal with the non-compliance. Drug court programs in Texas use a number of graduated sanctions in response to program non-compliance. Most programs have an initial period of tolerance for violations followed by a series of escalating sanctions associated with program noncompliance. Sanctions include: Verbal reprimand Community service, with increasing hours of service required for repeat violations Increasing attendance requirements at counseling or AA/NA meetings Demotion in phase Incarceration in jail, with increasing days in jail for repeated violations; jail days range from 24 hours to 21 days or more in jail Program compliance is recognized by the presiding judge in front of drug court participants through verbal praise, promotion to the next phase in the program, reduced program fees, reduced program attendance requirements, and finally, program graduation. Depending on the court, program graduation can result in dropped criminal charges, early release from supervision requirements, reduced supervision requirements, or expungement of charges from the participant s criminal record. 14

19 III. Program Components of Drug Courts in Texas

20 Overview of Dallas County DIVERT Drug Court Dallas Drug Court Program Average Contacts Phase Number of Objective / Goals Court Caseworker Weeks (Per Month) (Per Week) Orientation / Stabilization Intensive Treatment Transition / Graduation 2 1+ The Dallas DIVERT (Diversion and Expedited Rehabilitation and Treatment) Drug Court is administered by the Dallas County District Attorney s Office and targets preindictment felony offenders eligible for pre-trial release who are charged with the following offenses: Possession of Controlled Substance less than 1 gram Possession of Marijuana, more than 4 oz. but less than 5 lbs. Obtaining Controlled Substance by Fraud Only first-time offenders are eligible. Offenders charged with delivery, or manufacture, of drugs are not eligible for the program. Offenders who have a history of assault are also excluded from the program. Offenders charged with DWI are not allowed to participate. The program is designed to last 12 to 18 months. In addition to the general requirements that each drug court shares, DIVERT court participants must also complete the following in order to successfully graduate: Participation in educational and employment services Substance abuse education Successful program completers have their case dismissed. If the offender unsuccessfully terminates from the program, the case is presented for prosecution of charges and can result in conviction and/or incarceration. 17

21 Overview of El Paso Drug Court El Paso Drug Court Program Average Contacts Phase Number of Objective / Goals Court Caseworker Weeks (Per Month) (Per Week) 1 16 Stabilization Abstinent Lifestyle Transition / Graduation 1 1 The El Paso drug court program, known as the 243 rd Judicial District Felony Drug Court Program, began operating in September The program is currently operating with existing county resources while funding is being sought. As of September 2001, the program had 3 participants. The program targets post-indictment felony offenders on community supervision or offenders indicted for offenses involving a controlled substance or marijuana. Offenders charged with DWI are eligible to participate. Offenders with a criminal history of violence or use of a weapon are not eligible to participate. The program is designed to last a minimum of 18 months. The following requirements must also be completed in order to successfully graduate from the program: Employment and educational services for offenders without a GED or HS diploma Life skills training Successful completion of the program can lead to consideration of early discharge from community supervision. If sanctions have been exhausted, the participant refuses to comply with program goals or becomes a supervision risk, the case will be referred back to the district attorney for prosecution of the offense that led to drug court referral and probation. 18

22 Overview of Jefferson County Drug Intervention Court Jefferson Drug Court Program Average Contacts Phase Number of Objective / Goals Court Caseworker Weeks (Per Month) (Per Week) 1 4 Orientation Disease Concept / 12-Steps Prevent Relapse / Social Skills Aftercare 1 3 The Jefferson County Drug Intervention Court is administered by Jefferson County Criminal District Courts. The program targets pre-indictment, post-indictment, felony or misdemeanor offenders serving community supervision terms for possession of controlled substance. Offenders with a DWI offense are eligible to participate. The program is designed to last 12 months. The following requirements must also be completed in order to successfully graduate from the program: Employment services Life skills training Pre-trial participants who successfully complete the program have their charges dismissed. For successful offenders under community supervision, the supervising officer is notified which may result in reduced supervision terms. Pre-trial defendants who unsuccessfully terminate from the program have their cases sent to the district attorney s office for prosecution. If an offender is on probation, his/her supervising officer is notified and other sanctions or modifications of the terms of supervision may occur. 19

23 Overview of Montgomery County Drug Court CARE Program Montgomery Drug Court Program Average Contacts Phase Number of Objective / Goals Court Caseworker Weeks (Per Month) (Per Week) 1 2 Suppress Substance Abuse Motivation Primary Treatment Aftercare 1.3* Extended Care 1 1 * Court appearances are once every three weeks during phase 4. The Montgomery County Drug Court, CARE (Court Assisted Rehabilitation Experience) program, is administered by the County Commissioners of Montgomery County. The drug court program targets post-indictment, post-plea felony offenders whose offense is drug-related. DWI offenders are also eligible to participate. Sex offenders and offenders with weapons charges or a violent history are not eligible for the program. Offenders are not eligible if they were currently on probation or parole supervision at the time the new drug-related offense was committed. The program is designed to last a minimum of 12 months. The following requirements must also be completed in order to successfully graduate: Stress management Cognitive-behavioral training (MRT) Educational and employment services Successful graduation results in the charges being dropped, the plea is withdrawn, and the conviction is removed from the participant s criminal record. Continued drug use, failure to successfully progress in the program, or participant withdrawal from the program results in unsuccessful termination. Because participation in the program is post-plea, unsuccessful termination results in sentencing on the original charge. 20

24 Overview of Tarrant County DIRECT Drug Court Tarrant Drug Court Program Average Contacts Phase Number of Objective / Goals Court Caseworker Weeks (Per Month) (Per Week) Assessment / Treatment Plan Counseling Complete Counseling / Relapse Prevention Aftercare 1 1 The Tarrant County DIRECT (Drug Impact and Rehabilitation Enhanced Comprehensive Treatment) Drug Court is administered by Tarrant County. The program originally began operations in September Federal funding was exhausted as of July 2000 and the program was terminated. New funding resulted in the program re-starting in October The program targets both pre-indictment and post-indictment misdemeanor and felony offenders. Drug dealers and violent offenders are excluded from program participation. DWI offenders are not eligible to participate. The program lasts approximately 12 to 18 months. Additional requirements needed for graduation include: Educational and employment services Successful graduation results in the defendant s early release from community supervision. Pre-trial defendants have their case dismissed by the district attorney. Continued relapse, failure to attend counseling and case management meetings, or a new arrest are grounds for unsuccessful termination. Unsuccessful termination results in referral back to the court of jurisdiction. Failure for continued drug use usually leads to requirement of participation in the Substance Abuse Felony Punishment program, a 9 to 12 month treatment program in a secure facility. 21

25 Overview of Travis County SHORT Drug Court Travis Drug Court Program Average Contacts Phase Number of Objective / Goals Court Caseworker Weeks (Per Month) (Per Week) 1 5 Orientation / Treatment Plan Treatment Aftercare 1 1 The Travis County Drug Diversion Court, or SHORT (System of Healthy Options for Release and Transition) program, is administered by the Travis County Criminal Court. The program targets pre-indictment state jail felony offenders charged with possession of a controlled substance. Offenders charged with delivery of a controlled substance are not eligible to participate. Offenders with a DWI offense are also not allowed to participate. The program is designed to last approximately 15 months. The following additional requirements must be completed in order for an offender to successfully graduate from the program: Family/parenting classes Other counseling services Life skills training Education, employment, and vocational training Offenders successfully graduating from the program have their case dismissed and the case can be expunged from their criminal record. Offenders are unsuccessfully terminated from the program for absconding, a new arrest for a violent offense, or by requesting to leave the program. Unsuccessful termination results in indictment and prosecution of the offense that led to participation in drug court. 22

26 CJPC to Conduct Process and Outcome Evaluation of Texas Drug Courts The CJPC will conduct an evaluation of currently operating drug court programs to present to the 78 th Texas Legislature in January The evaluation will examine process issues and report on post-release outcomes of drug court participants and comparison groups. The process analysis section will examine whether drug court programs are operating as originally designed and highlight how any changes or problems in operations may impact program outcomes. Process issues to be examined include: Participant selection Adequacy of program resources Program completion rates The outcome evaluation will compare the recidivism rates of drug court participants to the recidivism rates of similar offenders who did not participate in a drug court program. Recidivism measures will be based on the percentage of offenders arrested and/or incarcerated within two years of admission to a drug court program. Offenders included in this study will have been admitted to a drug court program prior to September 1, 2000 to allow for a two-year tracking period by September 1, Recidivism rates will be calculated for all program participants as well as examining the difference in rates for those completing the program versus those who participated but did not complete. Comparison group offenders will be identified who have characteristics similar to drug court offenders but who did not participate in the drug court program. They will be tracked for the same time period. Three drug court programs, representative of drug court programs in Texas, have been selected for the outcome evaluation. The drug court programs selected were chosen based on the size of program, years in operation, and availability of computerized data. The drug court programs that will be used for the future outcome evaluation are the Dallas DIVERT Court, the Jefferson County Drug Court, and Travis County s SHORT Drug Court. 23

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