Courtrooms typically have been viewed as intimidating places. Drug courts, however, have been changing that. These unique programs in criminal courts help addicted offenders find a positive path forward.
For decades, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) has been dedicated to the drug court mission. That commitment will never waiver. Drug courts deliver an effective combination of substance abuse treatment services and justice system case processing. Using treatment, mandatory drug testing, sanctions, incentives, and transitional services, drug courts promote accountability and recovery.
May is National Drug Court month. This month and throughout the year, BJA is proud to support the many professionals who keep this nation’s more than 4,000 drug courts in session. According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), these courts have served 1.5 million people as of March 2019 and have achieved an up to 58 percent reduction in recidivism.
“For nearly 30 years, BJA has been investing in drug courts throughout the nation, and we are extremely proud of their track record,” said BJA Acting Director Michael Costigan. “Drug courts find solutions for drug-addicted individuals, reduce their risk of recidivism, and improve public safety and health.”
Last year, BJA awarded more than $44 million in discretionary funding to support drug courts throughout the country. This year’s grant solicitation is still open and applications are being accepted. BJA’s Adult Drug Court and Veterans Treatment Court Discretionary Grant Program provides financial and technical assistance to support the implementation and enhancement of drug courts in states and communities. BJA’s National Drug Court Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Program offers onsite and virtual TTA to local and state drug courts and develops training curricula for conferences, regional meetings, and other training events. In addition, BJA partners with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to support juvenile drug courts and family treatment courts, with investments of over $19 million in FY2019.
This year, BJA is increasing support to states to help build and enhance drug courts and state-based drug court TTA programs. Funding allows states to identify critical service needs, including development of strategic plans for state drug court needs, training to build new courts and to address staff turnover and enhance operational skills, and expanding treatment resources in locations with substance abuse needs. Through BJA’s National Drug Court TTA program, five states (California, Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) have developed and are implementing a veterans treatment court (VTC) statewide strategic plan. Commonalities among the plans include increased identification of veterans in the criminal justice system, enhancing peer mentoring, role specific training for VTC team, and enhancing outreach to justice system stakeholders of VTCs.
BJA has also partnered with states to address critical gaps in services, such as support for the needs of tribes and veterans. In FY 2019, BJA funded the Eighth Judicial District Court of the State of Montana, which created its first Veterans Treatment Court program for American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN). The VTC serves justice-involved AI/AN veterans with substance use disorders, mental health conditions, or traumatic brain injuries who reside in Northcentral Montana. These veterans enter the military at higher rates than their counterparts. This VTC program is at the forefront of addressing the opioid, stimulant, and substance abuse epidemic in Montana, and BJA is proud to be its partner in this critical work.
To continue this important work, BJA has partnered with expert organizations to build on the knowledge in the drug court field. NADCP is a key partner, and BJA supports the expertise and reach in NADCP’s All Rise conference, the world’s largest conference on addiction, mental health and justice reform. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, this year’s conference will be held virtually from May 26-29, 2020. In addition to the wealth of information already planned, the conference will include new content on how treatment courts can address the impact of COVID-19. During the conference, BJA will facilitate a session to provide vital information on federal funding, training and technical assistance for the field, and to answer questions on projects from the field. Even as we all face a global pandemic, drug courts are in session. Their purpose remains clear and critical, and BJA’s support for them remains constant.