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.
“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”
With the start of the federal fiscal year on October 1, National Drug Court Resource Center (NDCRC) staff are hard at work preparing for the third year of our project. We have a number of exciting activities planned for the coming year. Some of these activities will build on the successes of the past two years while others will be entirely new.
Addiction is both a personal health crisis and a public health concern; it wreaks havoc on individual lives and can damage entire communities. The opioid crisis, for example, has led to the deaths of thousands of people, devastated families, and left cities and towns struggling financially from the loss of a workforce. How we understand addiction, therefore, has significant policy implications. The trouble is, addiction is difficult to treat, relapse is common, and there is no scientific rule to explain why any given drinker, user of prescription drugs, or recreational marijuana user becomes dependent or addicted.
On May 25, the New York Times published an in-depth look at Drug Induced Homicide Laws (DIH), intended to punish people with sentences equivalent to those for manslaughter and murder for providing or purchasing drugs which resulted in an overdose death. Though states started enacting these laws in the 1980s, there has been a gradual increase in their application over the past 15 years. The current opioid crisis has created a trend of legislators and prosecutors passing and utilizing these laws as they search for ways to deter opioid use. After reading the article, I conducted an informal survey on a small group of my friends, family, and significant other. I explained the premise of the laws, which now exist in at least 36 states. Those around me saw the logic, if they were used to punish kingpins of drug trafficking rings. But as the New York Times article pointed out, the sad reality is that these laws are not being used against kingpins. Instead, they are being used to target the family members, friends, and significant others of those who have died from overdoses. I posed the question, “What if I overdosed one Friday night and you got sent to jail for murder?”
Just four years ago I was sitting with this exact (probably outdated, now) laptop trying to sell myself to American University’s admissions team. In my application, I vowed to engage in every opportunity possible to immerse myself in the criminal justice education I was pursuing. Four years later, I can proudly say that after completing three internships, graduating with University and Latin Honors, getting hired at the Justice Programs Office, and accepting a scholarship to attend the Washington College of Law (WCL), I have done just that. Now, after attending the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) Annual Conference in Houston, I know I am ready to pursue my own legal career and advocate for these life-changing specialty dockets.
The Justice Programs Office is celebrating National Drug Court Month by sharing the personal perspectives of those who work in the treatment court field. Lauren van Schilfgaarde, Tribal Law Specialist at the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, continues our series with a look at Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts and their ability to heal both addictions and communities.
The modern tribal court is not an organic indigenous system. It is, in part, a product of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934, a federal statute that rejected prior federal Indian policies of assimilation and land loss and promoted the reestablishment of tribal governments. Yet, the implementation of the Act meant tribal governmental structures needed to look and sound like Anglo institutions rather than traditional tribal ones. Furthered by the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, the typical tribal court mirrors the American adversarial system, complete with a focus on incarceration and poor recidivism rates.
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.
NDCRC is excited to join our partners and friends at the National Association of Drug Court Professional Annual Conference (NADCP). Don’t miss out on the workshops we are hosting!
Effective Communication and Media for Drug Courts
Wednesday, May 30, 1:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. | 320 A
Panelists: Dr. Elizabeth Krempley, Megan Ward
Implementing a few simple communications practices can have outsized benefits for your treatment court. Telling your organization’s story well can improve community support for your program, increase enrollment, and raise your profile among potential funders. Join American University’s Justice Programs Office’s Elizabeth Krempley, Associate Director for Communications, and Megan Ward, Program Associate, to learn practical communications strategies and procedures for drug courts! This workshop will cover how to craft your program’s message, how to use social media to share your message, and how to engage with reporters and traditional media.
The 2017 Drug Court Review: A Discussion with the Authors
Wednesday, May 30, 1:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. | 371 B/E
Moderator: Preeti Menon; Panelists: Dr. Julie Baldwin, Dr. John Gallagher, Dr. Paul Lucas
NDCRC publishes an annual scholarly journal for the treatment court field, focusing on relevant and timely issues. This year’s Drug Court Review is centered around the study of veterans treatment courts (VTCs). Select authors of articles of this special issue will discuss their research and emergent topics within the VTC field.
Judicial Leadership: What They Don’t Teach You When Taking the Bench (for Judges and Those Who Work Closest with Them)
Thursday, May 31, 3:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. | Grand Ballroom B
Moderator: Preeti Menon; Panelists: Hon. Robert Russell, Hon. Tim Marcel, Hon. Eric Mehnert, Hon. Kevin Burke
After years of law school, practicing law, and serving on the bench, judges are well versed in the law. However, being an effective leader within the treatment court field comes with its own unique set of challenges and requisite skills. It is all too common for judges to be put in the position to lead these innovative programs without any formal education or training in program management or leadership. This session will cover skill building for judges in leadership, vision development, and effective communication.
Prosecutors and Defenders as Adversaries and Allies
Friday, June 1, 1:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. | Grand Ballroom C
Moderator: Zephi Francis; Panelists: Jenny Semmel, Ginger James, Pam Loh, Jonathan Schetky
The role of a prosecutor and defender fluctuate from adversaries to teammates in a drug treatment court setting. This session will provide attendees an opportunity to hear from court adversaries about collaborating and shifting their roles to best serve participants while adhering to the drug court model. This session will provide a medium for prosecutors and defenders to discuss challenges often encountered when working together toward a common goal of participant graduation.
The Justice Programs Office is celebrating National Drug Court Month by sharing the personal perspectives of those who work in the treatment court field. Jeffrey Kushner, MPHA, the Statewide Drug Court Administrator for the State of Montana begins our series examining the important partnership between treatment providers and drug court teams.
There are few services more difficult to provide than alcohol and other drug use treatment. In most instances we are, at least initially, dealing with individuals whose brains have been hijacked by powerful drugs. New drug court participants are often primarily interested in getting more and more of their drugs of choice and not in overcoming their problems. Treatment professionals, therefore, need all the help and support we can provide them in order to be most effective with our drug court participants. With over 50 years of experience in this field, it is very clear to me that by utilizing the resources of the criminal justice system and the treatment system we can improve success through the use of evidence-based practices rather than each system by itself.