Drug Court — Ten Key Components


“Drug courts integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice system case processing.”

  1. Program has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in place between the drug court team members (and/or the associated agencies)
    • MOU specifies team member roles
    • MOU specifies what information will be shared
  2. Program has a written policy and procedure manual
  3. All key team members attend staffing (Judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, treatment, program coordinator, and probation)
  4. All key team members attend court sessions/status review hearings (Judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, treatment, program coordinator, and probation)
  5. Law enforcement (e.g. police, sheriff) is a member of the drug court team
  6. Law enforcement attends court team meetings (staffings)
  7. Law enforcement attends court sessions (status review hearings)
  8. Treatment provider(s) communicates with court via email

“Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting participants’ due process rights.”

  1. A prosecuting attorney attends drug court team meetings (staffings)
  2. A prosecuting attorney attends court sessions (status review hearings)
  3. The defense attorney attends drug court team meetings (staffings)
  4. The defense attorney attends court sessions (status review hearings)

Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the drug court program.

  1. The time between arrest and program entry is 50 days or less
  2. Current program caseload/census (number of individuals actively participating at any one time) is less than 125
  3. The drug court allows other charges in addition to drug charges
  4. The drug court accepts offenders with serious mental health issues, as long as appropriate treatment is available
  5. The drug court accepts offenders who are using medications to treat their drug dependence
  6. Program uses validated, standardized assessment to determine eligibility
  7. Participants are given a participant handbook upon entering the program

Drug courts provide access to a continuum of alcohol, drug and other treatment and rehabilitation services.

  1. The drug court works with two or fewer treatment agencies or has a treatment representative that oversees and coordinates treatment from all agencies
  2. The drug court requires participants to meet individually with a treatment provider or clinical case manager weekly in the first phase of the program
  3. The drug court offers a continuum of care for substance abuse treatment (detoxification, outpatient, intensive outpatient, day treatment, residential)
  4. Program uses validated, standardized assessment to determine level or type of services needed
  5. Treatment providers administer evidence-based, manualized behavioral or cognitive-behavioral treatments
  6. The drug court offers gender specific services
  7. The drug court offers mental health treatment
  8. The drug court offers parenting classes
  9. The drug court offers family/domestic relations counseling
  10. The drug court offers residential treatment
  11. The drug court offers health care
  12. The drug court offers dental care
  13. The drug court offers anger management classes
  14. The drug court offers housing assistance
  15. The drug court offers trauma-related services
  16. The drug court offers a criminal thinking intervention
  17. The drug court provides relapse prevention services for all participants
  18. The drug court provides services to participant's families/children
  19. The drug court provides childcare while participants are in treatment or in court (or participating in other drug court requirements)
  20. Program provides (or partners with service providers who provide) participants with legally prescribed psychotropic or addiction medication (MAT)
  21. The minimum length of the drug court program is 12 months or more
  22. Treatment providers are licensed or certified to deliver substance abuse treatment
  23. Treatment providers have training and/or experience working with a criminal justice population
  24. Caseloads for probation/supervision officers do not exceed 30 active participants (up to 50 if mix of low risk and no other caseloads/responsibilities)
  25. Caseloads for clinicians providing case management and treatment do not exceed 30 active participants (up to 50 if counseling or case management)

Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing.

  1. Drug testing is random/unpredictable
  2. Drug testing occurs on weekends/holidays
  3. Collection of test specimens is witnessed directly by staff
  4. Staff that collect drug testing specimens are trained in appropriate collection protocols
  5. Drug test results are back in 2 days or less
  6. Drug tests are collected at least 2 times per week
  7. Participants are expected to have greater than 90 days clean (negative drug tests) before graduation

A coordinated strategy governs drug court responses to participants’ compliance.

  1. Program has incentives for graduation, including avoiding a criminal record, avoiding incarceration, or receiving a substantially reduced sentence
  2. Sanctions are imposed immediately after non-compliant behavior (e.g., drug court will impose sanctions in advance of a client's regularly scheduled court hearing)
  3. Team members are given a written copy of the incentive and sanction guidelines
  4. Program has a range of sanction options (including less severe sanctions such as writing assignments and community services and more severe sanctions such as jail time)
  5. In order to graduate participants must have a job or be in school
  6. In order to graduate participants must have a sober housing environment
  7. In order to graduate participants must have paid all court-ordered fines and fees (e.g., fines, restitution)
  8. Participants are required to pay court fees
  9. The drug court reports that the typical length of jail sanctions is 6 days or less
  10. The drug court retains participants with new possession charges (new possession charges do not automatically prompt termination)

Ongoing judicial interaction with each participant is essential.

  1. Participants have status review sessions every 2 weeks, or once per week, in the first phase
  2. Judge spends an average of 3 minutes or greater per participant during status review hearings
  3. The judge’s term is as least 2 years or indefinite
  4. The judge was assigned to drug court on a voluntary basis
  5. In the final phase of drug court, the clients appear before the judge in court at least once per month

Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness.

  1. The results of program evaluations have led to modifications in drug court operations
  2. Review of program data and/or regular reporting of program statistics has led to modifications in drug court operations
  3. The drug court maintains data that are critical to monitoring and evaluation in an electronic database (rather than paper files).

Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective drug court planning, implementation, and operations.

  1. All new hires to the drug court complete a formal training or orientation
  2. All members of the drug court team are provided with training in the drug court model
  3. Drug court staff members receive ongoing cultural competency training

Forging partnerships among drug courts, public agencies, and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances drug court program effectiveness.

  1. The drug court has an advisory committee that meets twice per year
  2. The drug court has an advisory committee that includes community members
  3. The drug court has a steering committee or policy group that meets regulars to review policies and procedures