Adult Drug Court Programs
The mission of drug courts is to stop the abuse of alcohol and other drugs and related criminal activity. Drug courts are a highly specialized team process that functions within the existing Superior Court structure to address nonviolent drug related cases. They are unique in the criminal justice environment because they build a close collaborative relationship between criminal justice and drug treatment professionals. Within a cooperative courtroom atmosphere, the judge heads a team of court staff, attorneys, probation officers, substance abuse evaluators, and treatment professionals all working in concert to support and monitor a participant's recovery. Together, they maintain a critical balance of authority, supervision, support, and encouragement. Drug court programs are rigorous, requiring intensive supervision based on frequent drug testing and court appearances, along with tightly structured regimens of treatment and recovery services. This level of supervision permits the program to actively support the recovery process and react swiftly to impose appropriate therapeutic sanctions or to reinstate criminal proceedings when participants cannot comply with the program.
Drug Court programs are characterized by:
- Collaborative links between the courts, prosecutors,
public defenders, law enforcement, treatment providers,
Social Service Agencies and Community-Based Non-Profit organizations.
- A standardized assessment process is utilized to identify
eligible non-violent offenders.
- Drug court teams are staffed with individuals trained in
substance abuse and recovery issues who operate in a non-adversarial
- Drug courts utilize a system of graduated sanctions and
incentives to encourage recovery goals and hold offenders accountable for
- Drug court professionals are encouraged to remain current
in the field by participating in training and education efforts on a state and
- Drug courts emphasize on-going program evaluation efforts to continually assess the effectiveness of program interventions and to update and improve program design when warranted.
The New Jersey Adult Drug Court History:
Drug Courts began in New Jersey in 1996 when Camden and Essex Superior Courts started accepting participants. These local projects evolved into well-defined drug court programs that have paved the way for additional pilot program efforts. By 1999 additional programs were established in Mercer, Passaic and Union counties. Through the hard work and dedication of the judges, prosecutors, public defenders, drug court professionals,substance abuse evaluators and probation officers in these jurisdictions, the state of New Jersey developed the experience and knowledge necessary to create a New Jersey Drug Court model.
In 1999, the Chief Justice asked the Conference of Criminal Presiding Judges to review the existing adult drug courts to determine whether drug courts were a "Best Practice" in the Criminal Division and the potential for expansion. In May, 2000, the Conference of Criminal Presiding Judges recommended drug courts as a "Best Practice" and in June of the same year the Judicial Council adopted drug courts as a "Best Practice" and called for a comprehensive statewide proposal. Issues of equal access and fundamental fairness required that the Judiciary produce a plan for expansion of drug courts to all counties in the state.
In December, 2000 the judiciary released a document entitled Drug Courts: A Plan for Statewide Implementation proposing statewide implementation of adult drug courts based on the success of the pilot iniatives. On September 6, 2001 Legislation L.2001, c.243 was signed by the Governor. That law provides the judiciary with funding to expand drug courts beyond the initial five courts. The plan involves a three phased process that will result in the establishment of a statewide drug court system. The New Jersey Drug Courts will focus on substance abusing criminal offenders who are charged with non-violent offenses and who do not have prior convictions for violent crimes.
Statewide Implementation Project
Phase I: Involved the transfer of the pilot drug courts from grant funding to direct appropriations from the State of New Jersey
Phase II: Began on 4/1/02 when five new drug court programs, in Bergen, Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem, Monmouth, Morris/Sussex and Ocean vicinages became operational.
Phase III: The remaining five court vicinages in Atlantic/Cape May, Burlington, Hudson, Middlesex and Somerset/Hunterdon/Warren are pending implementation.
Drug Court Facts
As of January, 2003
- Over 2,600 non-violent substance abusing offenders have entered New Jersey's adult drug court pilot programs.
- The current roster of drug court participants statewide is approximately 1,500.
- Over 120 participants have graduated from drug court and have been successfully discharged from probationary supervision.
- Almost 350 participants have celebrated their "commencement" from the supervision of a drug court judge, but remain under probationary supervision until they are eligible to graduate from the program.
- Approximately 32%of individuals enrolled in the program have been terminated for non-compliance and sentenced to a custodial term.
- The cumulative rate of retention since the program began in New Jersey in 1996 is 64%.
- A statewide data collection process has been established which will provide administrators with standardized data to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.
- Thirty-one drug-free babies were born to previously addicted female participants.
- Treatment Services are provided through a collaborative agreement between the Administrative Office of the Courts and the NJ Department of Health & Senior Services, Division of Addiction Services.
For more information, contact the Criminal Practice Division at the Administrative Office of the Courts or the Drug Court Coordinators in the vicinages with operational programs
Contact for Statewide Implementation Project:
Drug Court Manager
AOC, Criminal Practice Division
PO Box 982
Trenton, NJ 08625
Tel.# 609-292-3488 or 609-943-5977
New Jersey Drug Court Program Contacts:Criminal Division Managers & Drug Court Coordinators:
Drug Court Related Links
National Association of Drug Court Professionals: www.nadcp.org
National Drug Court Institute: www.ndci.org
National Institute on Drug Abuse: www.nida.nih.gov
Drug Court Clearinghouse and Technical Assistance Project at American University: www.american.edu/justice
Office of National Drug Control Policy: www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov
New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services: www.state.nj.us/health/index.html