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National Assembly: Drugs, Alcohol Abuse,
and the Criminal Offender
Wednesday, December 8, 1999

Community-Based Interventions II

Tom Kirkpatrick, President
Chicago Crime Commission
Chicago, Illinois

Luceille Fleming, Director
Ohio Department of Alcohol and
Drug Addiction Services
Columbus, Ohio

Valerie Raine, Project Director
Brooklyn Treatment Court
Brooklyn, New York

Bennett Brummer, Public Defender
Dade County
Miami, Florida

Henry Weber, Drug Court Judge
Jefferson County District Court
Louisville, Kentucky

James Martz, Assistant State's Attorney State Attorney's Office West Palm Beach, Florida


Summary of Proceedings

Panelists discussed effective approaches to implementing community-based multidisciplinary work with substance-abusing offenders, determining ultimate responsibility and accountability in a partnership, developing alternative sentencing strategies, and evaluating the effectiveness of the work.

Moderator Tom Kirkpatrick of the Chicago Crime Commission reiterated the need for collaborative work, noting that there are not enough resources to get the job done through one system working alone. If the same relationship between the number of police officers and the amount of crime existed today as in 1965, the country would need to hire 5 million more police officers, "which is not going to happen," he noted. Panel members agreed that the problems faced by professionals today in the related areas of criminal justice and drug and alcohol abuse are much more far-reaching and more complex than in the past.

Effective working collaborations keep the client at the center of the action and minimize any turf or ego issues that arise, said Luceille Fleming of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. Formal memoranda of agreement (MOAs) provide one vehicle to encourage concrete cooperation among different individuals and organizations. These MOAs detail the objectives of the partnership, as well as the specific roles, relationships, and responsibilities of each of the collaborating partners. MOAs are particularly important when leadership changes occur, when new practitioners join the group, and when potential conflict situations arise.

Even with MOAs, however, misunderstandings and conflicts can occur. One of the most common occurs over which agency should have ultimate responsibility and accountability for treatment. Some argue that the treatment provider must be ultimately responsible, while others say the justice system must be the primary authority.

Judge Henry Weber of Kentucky's Jefferson County Drug Court argued that the most critical choice when dealing with substance-abusing offenders in the drug courts is determining the treatment provider. Treatment should involve a collaborative, team approach, but when the court is the point of entry for treatment, it must have ultimate responsibility for ensuring such treatment. Providers should understand the needs of the court and the fact that they are a participant in the court's work, he said. This understanding is critical whether the treatment is to be provided in a criminal justice facility or whether it takes place in the community.

Valerie Raine of the Brooklyn Treatment Court agreed, reiterating that ultimate responsibility for enforcing compliance with treatment is with the courts. Requiring accountability from the client by having them monitored and by requiring regular reporting to the court is important for ensuring compliance with the treatment plan.

Other successful approaches have been used to identify and get treatment for substance-abusing offenders. Bennett Brummer, a Dade County Public Defender, recounted how his office saw unmet treatment needs and decided to become more proactive. They now use a medical model that emphasizes treatment rather than a reactive, punitive criminal model; the office helps identify clients with drug and alcohol problems and assists in getting them treatment. "We try to view these individuals as patient addicts rather than criminal addicts, and we are concerned with outcomes. We want to see them returned to their communities to live successful and productive lives."

Criminal prosecutors are beginning to work proactively with community drug courts and others in South Florida. "We've changed our role a great deal," said James Martz, Assistant State's Attorney in West Palm Beach, Florida. "We've taken to the streets and we're out trying to understand the community better. We're formulating responses now that reflect what the community wants, and we try to identify those clients most likely to succeed in treatment. We're finding ourselves working more and more with the community courts."

Fleming noted that effective treatment is not enough and that most clients require multiple services, including literacy training, General Equivalency Diploma (GED) coaching, and other services to succeed.

There is also a critical need for credible evaluation to ensure the accountability or effectiveness of any treatment approach. These evaluations need to measure outcomes and not merely document a process or simply count the number of individuals who participate or complete treatment, Fleming noted. For example, evaluations need to document whether individuals receiving treatment have lower recidivism rates or higher rates of successful reentry into the community than those who do not receive treatment. "If you don't evaluate, you're not accountable, and if you're not accountable, your funding dries up," she said.

Program evaluations to date indicate that those who have received treatment for their drug and alcohol problems through drug court interventions are less likely to be repeat offenders. "These folks are more likely to be living successfully and paying taxes than using tax dollars," Weber concluded.


Last Updated: March 4, 2002

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