In his keynote address “Follow the Evidence: A Research Update” Dr. Douglas Marlowe, Chief of Science, Law and Policy for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), said that the most effective Drug Court model is one that uses 10 key components (see box below) to identify high-risk/high-need individuals to participate in the program. High-risk/high-need people are those who are a high recidivism risk and in urgent need of substance abuse treatment. This population tends to benefit most from the strict supervision and structure that Drug Courts can provide, he said.
Attendees at conference
Dr. Douglas Marlow addresses legislators and conference attendees.

The conference also emphasized the importance of judicial leadership. Dr. Marlowe and other speakers highlighted judges’ vital role as leaders and ambassadors of specialty courts, for the court system at large, and communities they serve.

Keynote speaker retired Special DEA Agent Robert Stutman called the opioid crisis America’s “greatest epidemic.” Mr. Stutman said that in just one generation, prescription opioids such as Oxycontin have pushed the boundaries of drug addiction to all levels of society. He described how teens and adults become dependent on prescription pain medication after a sports injury or dental surgery, and turn to cheap, plentiful heroin as a substitute. Mr. Stutman urged conference attendees to help break the myths surrounding addiction, saying that the physiological changes to the brain reinforce addictive behavior, not poor character or bad habits.

Defining Drug Courts: The Key Components

  1. Drug courts integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice system case processing
  2. Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting participants’ due process rights
  3. Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the drug court program
  4. Drug courts provide access to a continuum of alcohol, drug, and other related treatment and rehabilitation services
  5. Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing
  6. A coordinated strategy governs drug court responses to participants’ compliance
  7. Ongoing judicial interaction with each drug court participant is essential
  8. Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness
  9. Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective drug court planning, implementation, and operations
  10. Forging partnerships among drug courts, public agencies, and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances drug court program effectiveness

Source: National Association of Drug Court Professionals,

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