THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DRUG COURT PROFESSIONALS’
4TH ANNUAL JUVENILE AND FAMILY DRUG COURT
THURSDAY, JANUARY 9, 2003
I’m delighted to be here, and to have this opportunity to assure you of my strong commitment to drug courts and to working with the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) and all of you. You are doing tremendous work, which the Department of Justice wholeheartedly supports, to advance drug courts in this country and to stop the revolving door of drug use and crime.
The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and NADCP are partners in a number of important initiatives – including the National Drug Court Institute, and this conference. These initiatives provide vital support to communities across the country in developing, implementing, and enhancing drug courts. And I’m looking forward to continuing to work with you to further these efforts.
I’m particularly pleased to have the chance to partner once again with your distinguished CEO, Judge Karen Freeman-Wilson. Judge Freeman-Wilson is a fellow Hoosier, and we worked on many areas of common interest back home in Indianapolis. I know she is providing strong and committed leadership to the drug court movement, as is, clearly, Judge Russell, in his role as chair of the NADCP Board.
And I’m pleased to see Judge Len Edwards here this morning, along with Bob Flores, Administrator of our Juvenile Justice Office. We’ve been collaborating with Judge Edwards and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) Board to develop plans for improving juvenile justice research. Together, we’ve made great progress in this effort, and I look forward to our continued strong relationship going forward.
I’m also honored to share this session with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director John Walters. We have a number of ongoing collaborations with ONDCP, including the National Drug Court Institute (NDCI) and the Drug-Free Communities program, which is working to reduce drug abuse in this country, particularly by young people. Director Walters’ inspirational leadership is helping to stem the tide of drug abuse in our nation, and I appreciate his strong support for our drug court program.
As Director Walters will no doubt tell you, this Administration strongly supports drug courts as an effective approach to increasing community safety by reducing crime on the part of drug-involved offenders. President Bush requested $52 million for drug court grants in FY 2003, a slight increase from the $50 million appropriated in FY 2002 and the past several years; and I believe you will see a renewed commitment to drug courts in the President’s 2004 budget, soon to be presented to the Congress.
As you know, our 2003 appropriation is still pending in Congress, but we hope our funding bill will be at the top of the agenda for the 108th Congress, which convened earlier this week. Drug courts have strong, bipartisan support in the Congress. As federal, state, and local officials have seen the positive impact the drug court strategy can have on reducing recidivism and improving community safety, the number of drug courts across the country has mushroomed.
I am proud of the role the Office of Justice Programs has played in advancing drug courts. Since 1995, OJP’s Drug Courts Program has awarded more than $160 million to approximately 600 communities to plan, implement, or enhance adult, juvenile, family, and tribal drug courts. At the end of May 2002, there were 849 operational drug courts across the country. Of these, the Drug Court Clearinghouse reports that 616 – or 72 percent – have received OJP funding.
But this tremendous growth results from more than just money. For the most part, the rapid expansion of drug courts is the result of the interest and commitment of all of you– in communities across this country – who have seen the effectiveness of drug courts in reducing recidivism and changing the lives of drug-abusing offenders.
For 2003, there are a few new developments in our drug court program. First, as you probably know, the Drug Courts Program Office has been folded into our Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). I want to assure you that this in no way diminishes the importance we place on our drug court program. Rather, our aim in consolidating the drug court program into BJA is to enhance collaboration and coordination to ensure that drug courts become a key component of a comprehensive approach to improving community safety and reducing illegal drug use.
I know BJA Director Richard Nedelkoff will talk more about his vision for drug courts when he speaks to you tomorrow. But let me just quickly mention a few areas we’re exploring for the future of our drug courts program. For example, we intend to focus on continuing training and technical assistance to existing drug courts to strengthen their programs, ensure they have the best tools available and help them to develop approaches that not only get results but are sustainable in the long term.
We also want to focus funding on existing drug courts to enhance their operations by expanding their client base or making available additional services, particularly treatment. One serious barrier to drug court expansion is the lack of available treatment in many communities. We plan to collaborate more closely with our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services to increase the availability of treatment, so that more offenders can receive the services they need to end their addictions and become law-abiding, contributing members of their communities.
We’ll also continue to provide funding for new drug courts, but we’ll focus on supporting the development and implementation of drug courts in under-served areas – inner-city and rural areas, for example.
I know that many of you are concerned about new language on juvenile violent offenders contained in the Justice Department’s reauthorization bill that was recently passed by the Congress. Our Office of General Counsel is examining the language, and we’ll have guidance out to the field as soon as possible.
The good news, though, is that the reauthorization bill again authorizes the drug court grant program. We’re pleased to have this reaffirmation of Congressional support for drug courts.
For 2003, we’ll also continue to support research and evaluation to measure the effectiveness of drug courts and to expand our knowledge on what works in treating drug-involved offenders. Research has really “sold” the drug court concept to many doubting Thomases across the country. Evaluations have consistently shown that drug courts significantly reduce recidivism among drug-abusing offenders.
A new study by our National Institute of Justice, for example, estimates a recidivism rate of 16.4 percent for drug court graduates in the first year after graduation, and a recidivism rate of 27.5 percent in the first two years after graduation. That’s very good, considering the population that drug courts serve.
Our nationally representative study examined over 2,000 drug court graduates from 100 of the largest drug courts in the nation. More than a quarter of the drug courts studied had recidivism rates of less than 5 percent, and a little more than 20 percent had recidivism rates between 5 and 10 percent. The study is designed to set a benchmark recidivism rate for the approximately 17,000 offenders who graduate each year from drug courts across the country. The report, “Estimate of Drug Court Recidivism Rates,” should be posted on our Web site at www.ojp.usdoj.gov in early February.
But the early word on this study is that it will confirm the effectiveness of drug courts in reducing recidivism and increasing public safety. At OJP, we firmly believe in evidence-based policy making and investing scarce taxpayer dollars in programs that work. Quite simply, drug courts work.
So we will continue to support drug courts and other sanctions-based treatment for offenders. Through our research and evaluation initiatives, we will continue to advance our knowledge of the most effective approaches for treating drug-involved offenders and preventing relapse. And we will continue to work with NADCP and all of you to support drug court programs throughout the country, to reduce illegal drug use and drug-related crime, and to increase the safety of our communities. Thank you very much.