I first learned about the concept of procedural fairness within justice systems in the early 2000s while working at the Department of Justice. The concept seems quite intuitive to me yet when observing court practices, I was struck by how many courts don’t naturally incorporate the elements of procedural fairness into their daily work.
On recent visits to three drug courts in three different states, the concept of moving away from a traditional cookie-cutter approach to treatment for participants came up. In several conversations, drug court teams discussed the idea of working with participants to identify and better understand their unique needs. From that inquiry and conversation, drug court teams could develop a treatment plan tailored to the participant’s unique individual history, circumstances, and needs.
It’s no secret that substance use disorders are linked to mental health issues. According to SAMHSA, over 7.9 million Americans experience co-morbidity (two or more conditions at a time) with a mental and substance use disorder.[i] Drug courts are designed to bridge the gap between substance use treatment and the criminal justice system, but mental health treatment is often an overlooked link. For participants in drug courts nationwide, between one-quarter and one-half are referred to a mental health treatment provider for a co-occurring mental disorder.[ii] Unless drug courts begin to properly address the mental health of the participants, they will not be resolving all underlying problems that led to criminal justice involvement for people with co-occurring disorders. Continue reading “Addressing Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders in Treatment Courts”
“For the veteran, thank you for bravely doing what you’re called to do so we can safely do what we’re free to do.” – Unknown
This month as we celebrate our veterans, we take a moment as a nation to thank the soldiers for their service of ensuring our freedom and safety. We would also like to acknowledge and thank those who continue to support our veterans once they return home.
Our first shout out goes to the Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans emerging back into civilian life may face several challenges, such as PTSD and substance misuse. VA’s National Center for PTSD created a series of short videos for patients and providers to help recognize the symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Continue reading “Sending Support for Our Soldiers”
My first Halloween experience was when I was 12 years old. As a recently arrived immigrant to the United States, Halloween was a uniquely American experience for me and it was thrilling to discover haunted houses, carved pumpkins, and elaborate costumes. I still remember staying up late on Halloween and trading candy with my siblings after trick-or-treating. Today, I feel like I am a pro at Halloween, I have a collection of cute decorations, I create jack-o-lanterns, I plan my kids’ costumes, and I make sure my house has the best candy on the block. As an adult, I still appreciate the innocent Halloween fun, but I am also aware of the public safety challenges this celebration can pose. This includes keeping kids safe as they explore en masse, protecting pedestrians and drivers, and preventing intentional mischief that could result in serious harm.
Last week was the first time I heard Mark Holden, the senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary of Koch Industries, Inc., speak about criminal justice reform. He was interviewed by Bill Keller, the editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project, during a session titled, “A Conversation on State Progress,” at the Smart on Crime summit hosted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The Center for American Progress, and Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of perception is “a result of perceiving,” “a mental image,” “awareness of the elements of environment through physical sensation,” “quick, acute, and intuitive cognition,” or “a capacity for comprehension.” Perceptions are the way that we understand something and are often based on our knowledge of real events or our own life experiences. When it comes to our understanding of crime, our perceptions of crime can be based on experiencing crime as a victim ourselves, what we know about the criminal activity in our community from local news or conversations with neighbors, listening to political conversations about crime, or reading stories about criminal activity on social media.
For those who work in the treatment court field, how often is a public defender part of your drug treatment court team? If your answer is “sometimes,” “not often,” or “not at all,” please continue to read. If your answer is “always,” kudos to you; please share this blog post and your stories with us.
Drug treatment courts use a specialized model for people facing criminal drug charges who live with serious substance use and mental health disorders. Drug court teams, which comprise members of the judiciary, prosecution, defense bar, probation, law enforcement, mental health, social services, and treatment communities, work together to help addicted offenders get into long-term recovery. As part of the drug treatment court team, public defenders participate in the team meetings and often provides input in his/her client’s treatment plan.
Last year, the annual National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) conference was held in Washington, D.C., in June. The Justice Programs Office presents at the conference every year and we bring many of our resources with us to share with the treatment court field. One of the most popular tools is a thumb drive pre-loaded with a library of digital resources for drug court practitioners. I attended the conference last year as a newly appointed Project Director for the National Drug Court Resource Center, a project funded by Bureau of Justice Assistance, and we had just completed the planning phase for many of the project’s initiatives. During the conference, I came across a dollar that I deemed to be my drug court lucky dollar. I have carried this dollar with me in my phone case over the last year and would like to share the successes we have had since.
For young kids, learning about careers usually means learning about teachers, doctors, nurses, firemen, police officers, etc. So, a couple of years ago, when my then six-year-old son asked me to describe what I do, I really had to think about it. As well as being the project director of the National Drug Court Resource Center, my work at the Justice Programs Office (JPO) encompasses other areas of the criminal justice policy field.
This is how I answered him: