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California Collaborative Justice Courts Foundation Provides Support for Drug Courts

Written by  Dianne Marshall   

July 21, 2011
Substance abuse has devastating impacts on individuals and communities in the United States. In addition to illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine and heroin, prescription drug and alcohol abuse also present significant problems. Prescription drug abuse in particular is having a ruinous impact on our returning veterans.

When addiction often leads individuals to the criminal justice system, Drug Courts and other collaborative justice courts are on the front lines of treatment and intervention. These judicially supervised treatment programs address the seemingly insatiable demands of addiction by utilizing evidence-based demand reduction strategies.

The California Collaborative Justice Courts (CCJC) Foundation was established in 2009 as a public-private partnership that uses local control and statewide backing to support Drug Courts and other collaborative courts. The CCJC Foundation helps facilitate contributions to these invaluable tools in the struggle with addiction, thereby meeting the unique, unfunded needs of participants striving to satisfy program requirements. We provide the necessary “arm’s length” relationship to fund-raising required by ethical standards for those working in the criminal justice system.

Drug Courts focus on offenders with the highest need for treatment and other wrap-around services and who have the highest risk of failing out of those services without support and structure.

A primary strength of the Drug Court approach is the focus on the power of personal responsibility and accountability. Under judicial supervision, individuals are held accountable for their active participation in their treatment programs. Treatment professionals facilitate a process that addresses both the physiological process of withdrawal from substance use and the re-building of lives by developing essential coping skills. Individuals learn the importance of continued abstinence, anger management, problem solving and decision-making and use of community resources, to name a few skills taught. The case of a man named Dennis demonstrates the value and effectiveness of the program.

Dennis entered Adult Drug Court wearing an ankle bracelet while on “home release” from jail. He was addicted to meth, alcohol, marijuana and a bad attitude. He was, however, determined to make it through all six phases of the program without any sanctions. In the process of meeting his obligations to the court and to treatment, he chose to integrate into his life practices that would keep him in recovery. Dennis engaged in community service to pay his court fees and fines. That service led to full time employment. After 18 months Dennis successfully completed his Drug Court program. Now, he actively utilizes community service workers at his place of employment, attends every Adult Drug Court graduation and serves on his Local Advisory Board to assist with raising funds for the unmet needs of those currently in the program.

The Urban Institute’s 2003 study Recidivism rates for drug court graduates: nationally-based estimate – Final Report details that 75% of Drug Court graduates remain arrest-free compared with 30% of individuals released from prison.

Random drug testing plays a key role in Drug Courts’ success. “Trust but verify” is a constant theme throughout the program. (Participants call Drug Court “the boot camp” of treatment programs.) While non-compliance in Drug Court is addressed through consequences defined by the Drug Court team; cooperation and compliance are acknowledged from the Bench.

The CCJC Foundation is committed to helping offenders supervised by California’s collaborative justice courts become community members rather than community costs.

Federal drug control spending alone exceeds $15 billion annually. Collaborative justice courts save national, state and local units of government considerable money. Drug Courts produce savings felt throughout government because they lower criminal justice costs by reducing jail/prison use and by reducing crime. Current research shows that Drug Courts save as much as $27 for every $1 invested. That savings is calculated on direct and measurable offsets such as reduced arrests, law enforcement contact, court hearings and the use of jail or prison beds (www.npcresearch.com). Additional savings can be found in reduced foster care placement and healthcare utilization. Drug Courts save up to $13,000 for every person served (Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America’s Prison Population 2007-2011, Pew Public Safety Performance Project).

There are no government or foundation grants that address the many personal needs of children, individuals and families involved in collaborative justice courts in California. People entering collaborative justice courts lack material means due to almost universal poverty, lack of personal support systems able or willing to help, and gaps in existing community resources.

The CCJC Foundation works with California’s jurisdictions through the establishment of local advisory boards which raise funds in their home communities and oversee their distribution to area participants to help meet needs relevant to their success. These funds address participant and program needs that have no other funding source.

The size of a grant does not have to be substantial in order to make a big difference. Grants are generally in the range of $50 to $250. Examples include:

  • Mandatory GED testing fees,
  • Removal of inappropriate tattoos,
  • Bus passes or bicycles and helmets for those who have lost their drivers’ licenses to assure attendance in treatment services, and
  • Dental work to replace teeth destroyed through drug use.

Mendocino County’s local advisory board, The Friends of Drug Court, has been operational since 2005 and has made dozens of grants to support their local collaborative courts’ participants. Nevada County, San Bernardino and San Luis Obispo Counties are in the process of forming local advisory boards.

Detailed information about the CCJC Foundation can be found at www.ccjcfoundation.org. To arrange for a visit to your community to talk further about establishing a local advisory board under the auspices of the CCJC Foundation, you may contact us at donorservices@ccjcfoundation.org . Join us in this effort. When one person rises out of drugs and crime, the entire community also rises.

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