Treatment Court Standards and Best Practices with Terrence Walton
During this interview from RISE23, hear from Terrence Walton, Chief Operating Officer of All Rise.
During the interview, Mr. Walton discusses the Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards and how treatment court teams can successfully implement what is contained in the Standards. Mr. Walton also highlights the impact that treatment courts can have on an individual’s road to recovery.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: Well, I'm honored to be here today with Terrence. Terrence, could you please introduce yourself?
TERRENCE WALTON: Well, absolutely. I am Terrence Walton. I'm the Chief Operating Officer for All Rise, which includes the Treatment Court Institute, Impaired Driving Solutions, Justice for Vets, as well as our newest division, the Center for Advancing Justice.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: Wonderful. Now, I know that you have recently introduced the second edition of the Adult Best Practice Standards.
TERRENCE WALTON: Indeed we have.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: Very exciting. You want to tell us about that and why it's so important?
TERRENCE WALTON: Well, let's start with the first edition. So in 2013, we released volume one of the—what's really the groundbreaking Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards that outline the research that doesn't just say the drug courts work, the drug treatment courts work, it says for whom they work and how they work—all based on evidence. First volume was 10 years ago. The second volume was a couple years later. We've had now a decade of implementing those, of new research. And so the second edition double-checks what we said in the first edition, as well as adds additional research, additional nuance, and mostly, additional practice guidance on not just what you should do in order to get the outcomes that treatment courts promise, but how you do it and how you implement it.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: That's awesome. What advice would you give to treatment court teams to successfully implement the second edition of the Best Practices?
TERRENCE WALTON: Well, Karen, that's tough. One of the things that we learned over these last 10 years is that we have the—of the 4,000 or so treatment courts that exist, that the vast majority really want to do the right thing. They want to be serving the right people. They want to be implementing practices in the right way because they want outcomes. They want to save lives. They want to save money in the long run. They want to reunite family. So they want to do the right thing. They are faced with the limitations that exist, the limitations of resources around them, of staff turnover, of varying levels of knowledge, and all of that
And so what we have learned is that it's really important that programs be willing to take a good look at where they are, figure out where you are, and then take it easy and systematically, and collaboratively chart a course for making change. We'd love you to be able to do everything at once, but we recommend that you use your best minds and we can help with that as well to plot out a course for making change and improvements to the—at the pace you're able to do so.
So what—it's kind of a combination of—with some urgency, get a look at where you are in terms of how your practices—how your practices compare to best practices. And then set an intentional, deliberate course—that's realistic—to making change. Standards are standards. They are sometimes aspirational, but they need to be reached. And so, part of what All Rise and our Treatment Court Institute, in particular for adult drug courts, does is really help teams to plot that course and to find a way of both understanding where they are baseline, measuring their progress, and then finding ways to sort of reach the standard, which is important.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: Very. Yeah. What role do treatment courts play in an individual's road to recovery from substance use?
TERRENCE WALTON: Hmm. Well, I love that question, for a couple reasons. I am the Chief Operating Officer, so it's my job to know all things drug court.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: Right.
TERRENCE WALTON: And my job to help All Rise function and grow. But I'm a treatment professional by calling. I've done nothing else in my adult life. For more than three decades, I've been involved in helping people break free from addiction. And that includes, for most of that time, helping people who are helping people. So recovery, people moving from active addiction, to thriving, robust recovery is what my professional life is about. And I've been able to be a part of the treatment court world for really 20 of those 30 years because, for our population, there is no intervention that has introduced more people—for whom recovery seemed out of the question—has made it a reality for them.
So I can be clear. And I think what—I want you to understand this that the treatment courts are for people who are living with addiction or some other mental illness that has led to crime. And we mean crime is more serious than possessing a substance for your own use and—not excusing that, but that's not what our population is. It's not just for possession charges; it is for individuals whose addiction has led to crime and who, through assessment have demonstrated that if we simply give them the help they need, that won't be enough. They need more accountability, more structure.
And so for that population, the structure of the court, the accountability of a judge—not a judge who cares, but a judge who is the judge—a system that's wrapped around them, can help to keep them in treatment long enough for the magic to happen, for the motivation to become internal. And so for our population, treatment courts are an important path to wellness. There are many folks who've said to us, "I have struggled,” for instance, “for 30 years to get just 30 days without the compulsion to use."
KAREN FRIEDMAN: To use, yeah.
TERRENCE WALTON: And that happened in treatment courts.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: Right. Right. Why do you think treatment courts are so essential to justice in our communities nationwide?
TERRENCE WALTON: Yeah. Yeah. Listen, the term “justice” still means a lot today.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: Yeah.
TERRENCE WALTON: You know, at All Rise, we haven't abandoned the term justice. We haven't abandoned the term “justice system.” It's aspirational. We understand that many parts of the system are not just, but it's aspirational. And for a person who is living with addiction, that means they're not using because they want to, they're using when they don't want to. That it's a compulsion—a brain-based compulsion—for that person whose addiction has led to crimes of some kind or led to them being unable to care for their children. For that population, to hold them accountable for future actions, it is really essential that we give them the opportunity to get help.
Now there are folks who don't take that opportunity, but they've been given the opportunity to get help. And not just help in—you know, on paper—but help that is real, that is evidence-based, that includes, of course, primary treatment—the treatment they need, the medications they may need—but also long-term recovery management where they have, hopefully, peer support and others who will walk with them along the very difficult journey.
So for me, in our opinion, that individuals who are in the justice system primarily because of addiction, that the only way to really hold them accountable and to get true justice is to give them the opportunity to get help to address the underlying issues that led to that.
KAREN FRIEDMAN: Yup.
TERRENCE WALTON: So I just—I—if there was some other option, you know, for this population, I'd be talking about that right now. But for this population, living with addiction at higher risk, treatment courts have proven to be the option for true justice and recovery management.
Opinions or points of view expressed in these recordings represent those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Any commercial products and manufacturers discussed in these recordings are presented for informational purposes only and do not constitute product approval or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.