On August 26th Women’s Equality Day is celebrated. Initially chosen in commemoration of the passing of the 19th Amendment that enshrined a woman’s right to vote, Women’s Equality Day has become a yearly celebration of the history of woman’s suffrage as well as a “pledge to continue fighting for equality for women and girls.”[i] In respect of that, this month’s blog post covers some of the issues women face in their experiences within treatment courts.
The first drug court was established in 1989 in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and was designed to tackle the cocaine epidemic that had overtaken the region. This first drug court provided an alternative response to mass incarceration and added a facet to American justice that hadn’t yet been seen. Miami-Dade’s model imparted the idea that offending rates could be reduced without the severe punishment of jail or prison. In addition, it emphasized the notion that treating the root causes of crime, including mental health and addiction issues, could not only achieve the same results as traditional justice, but could actually surpass them.
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.
I first learned about the issues that can arise with the over-consumption of alcohol in a freshmen seminar in college. Before that, I had no formal introduction or training on the negative consequences that can result from drinking and driving. Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Impaired (DWI) are increasingly becoming a national issue. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 48 minutes in 2017.”1 People who are proven guilty of DUI/DWI can then end up in treatment courts.
What’s celebrated in March? In addition to St. Patrick’s Day, Women’s History Month, and National Criminal Justice Month, we also celebrate Social Work Month. In honor of the many contributions social work has made to treatment courts, I decided to highlight a person whose work is beneficial to the practices and procedures of treatment courts. Dr. Anne Dannerbeck Janku is an associate research professor at the University of Missouri. For almost two decades, she has conducted research on racial and ethnic disparities in treatment courts. Continue reading “A Social Work Professor Serves the Court”
In the spring of 2017, I was working as a Veterans Treatment Court Coordinator in Montana. I’d heard about groups that used creative writing as a form of therapy for veterans but hadn’t heard of any in Great Falls. So, I worked with the local Vet Center to start a group called The Sword and the Pen. Initially, we met every other Thursday and by October of 2017, prior to my moving to DC to pursue a graduate degree, we were meeting every week, rain or shine.
Over the past decade, veterans treatment courts have transformed the way the justice system identifies, assesses, and responds to veterans. One of the keys to veterans treatment court’s success has been the inclusion of veterans from the community who serve as mentors to their fellow veterans in crisis.
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”
If I’m home at 9:00 a.m. on a weekday, the television is most likely tuned to Judge Mathis. Greg Mathis is humorous, but a no-nonsense judge who oversees small claims cases in Chicago. Don’t tell any lawyer, but I feel like I’ve earned an honorary law degree after watching this show for many years. For many people, television is their only knowledge of the court system. Although entertaining, these shows aren’t an accurate representation of real courtroom proceedings. To learn more about the operations of a court, a treatment court specifically, I visited a docket in a Mid-Atlantic state. Here is what I learned.
The CDC publishes a staggering record of drug overdose fatalities in 2017, Michigan seeks to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 17, and Norfolk, VA stands out for its positive work in drug courts. All of these stories and more in this week’s news roundup.