SD52 - The Feasibility of a Drug Court Pilot Project in Virginia

  • Published: 1994
  • Author: Virginia State Crime Commission
  • Enabling Authority: Senate Joint Resolution 262 (Regular Session, 1993)

Executive Summary:
The Corrections Subcommittee held four meetings in Richmond in 1993 to conduct the drug court study. On May 25, 1993, Staff Attorney Dana Schrad presented an overview of different types of drug court projects that developed from a model initiated in Dade County, Florida. Although there are a variety of drug court models being implemented around the country, they share as their common goal that non-violent offenders who have substance abuse problems should be offered court-supervised treatment instead of serving time in crowded local jails. Additional information on drug court projects was presented by staff at the June 22, 1993, subcommittee meeting. At the August 24, 1993, meeting, staff reported on funding approaches that have been used to implement drug court projects. The subcommittee directed staff to research federal grant programs that possibly could fund pilot drug court projects, and to work with treatment and court officials to develop some options for a Virginia drug court project.

At the October 19, 1993, subcommittee meeting, staff presented a set of recommendations for consideration by the members. The recommendations and staff report were approved by the subcommittee for referral to the full Commission. In early December, Staff Attorney Dana Schrad and Ken Batten (DMHMRSAS) and Drew Molloy (DOC) attended a national conference on drug courts in Miami, Florida, sponsored by the U. S. Department of Justice, to gather additional information about how to plan and implement drug court programs. Ms. Schrad reported on the conference at the December 14, 1993, meeting of the Crime Commission, and the Commission approved the subcommittee report.

The findings and recommendations of the drug court pilot project feasibility study, as approved by the Crime Commission, are as follows:

Finding: For a drug court pilot project to be successful, an implementation plan must be developed that is tailored to Virginia drug offense laws and the state court system. All efforts must be made to design a drug court project that is efficient and oriented toward the goal of court-directed case management of drug offenders through a community corrections and treatment program. Corrections Subcommittee members stressed that a Virginia drug court project should not divert offenders away from the adjudication process by setting aside charges, but rather should operate to adjudicate the drug offender and develop an alternative sentencing disposition that places the offender in community corrections supervision and treatment appropriate to the offender.

Recommendation 1: An implementation and design plan for a pilot drug court project for a local Virginia court should be developed cooperatively by representatives from the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Public Defender Commission, the Virginia Commonwealth Attorneys Association, the Department of Corrections, the Office of Substance Abuse Services in the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services and the Virginia State Bar. The plan should be developed for project implementation as soon as project funding can be secured. The Virginia State Crime Commission will monitor the development of the implementation and design .plan, and will request periodic reports on its progress.

Finding: It is critically important to the success of a pilot drug court project that it be located in a jurisdiction that is supportive of the drug court concept, and has demonstrated a willingness to participate in a pilot project. The selection of an appropriate pilot site may be dependent on criteria set by the funding source, such as a federal government agency. An appropriate pilot site also may depend on the type of drug court design developed for the pilot project, and the compatibility of the design with the selected local court.

Recommendation 2: The Supreme Court of Virginia, the Public Defender Commission, the Virginia Commonwealth Attorneys Association, the Office of Substance Abuse Services in the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, the Department of Corrections and the Virginia State Bar, in developing a pilot drug court project, should consider and recommend possible pilot sites appropriate to the planned design. The site recommendations should take into consideration drug caseload, receptiveness of the local court and prosecutor to a pilot drug court project, and the availability of drug treatment services to the court.

Finding: An efficient and cost-effective drug court project will incorporate means to generate self-supporting funding, However, start-up funds for a pilot drug court usually are required to establish the project. The opportunities for securing federal grant funds to support a pilot drug court project in Virginia should be explored further, as well as possible avenues for state funding.

Recommendation 3: Upon completion of an implementation and design plan, grant applications to appropriate federal funding sources should be developed by the localities recommended for a pilot drug court project, with the assistance of the pilot project developers.

Finding: It is critical that an operational pilot drug court project collect and maintain data on its progress so that the success or failure of the project can be evaluated and documented. Such evaluation is necessary if a successful project is to be replicated in another locality.

Recommendation 4: Upon the implementation of a drug court pilot project, the Crime Commission shall monitor its progress and request periodic evaluation reports to determine its cost-effectiveness and efficiency in diverting non-violent drug offenders from incarceration into supervised and court-ordered treatment for substance abuse.