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Women and Addiction: Challenges for Drug Court Practitioners

NCJ Number
Justice System Journal Volume: 23 Issue: 3 Dated: 2002 Pages: 385-400
Date Published
16 pages
This article addresses how drug courts can meet the special needs of female participants, with attention to the example of the Brooklyn Treatment Court.
The experience of drug courts has shown that women are at a disadvantage compared to men, in that female drug court participants have, on average, less money and less education than the men and are more likely to be homeless, mentally ill, unemployed, and abused. Women participants are also more likely to have health problems and greater family responsibilities, which can distract them from their focus on recovery. Regarding the nature of their addiction, research has found that female felony offenders are more likely than male felony offenders to be addicted to a serious substance. Understanding these obstacles to recovery and potential pitfalls and responding to them effectively can help female addicts succeed in treatment and maintain a drug-free life after leaving the supervision of a drug court. The Brooklyn Treatment Court has developed a number of resources specifically for female participants. These resources include additional staff, onsite services, and new programs designed to address the needs of special populations. The court has improved its intake-and-screening process to link offenders more quickly with treatment programs, recognizing that an arrest provides a brief "window" of opportunity to guide the offender into treatment. The court has also attempted to expand treatment options for women by establishing links with the city jail and by fostering the creation of new treatment programs for difficult-to-serve groups, such as the mentally ill. Onsite services increases their accessibility to those with transportation difficulties and difficulty in keeping appointments. Onsite services include psychiatric evaluations, a health clinic, job training, and links to legal assistance. The court is considering hiring a housing specialist who can help homeless participants find a permanent, affordable place to live. The court continually sponsors research into the factors that help or hinder success in treatment, attempting to tailor its services accordingly.

Date Published: January 1, 2002