Innovative Drug Treatment Programs

We're on lunch break, in the lobby where we have a wireless connection for a few minutes. There was a very interesting presentation this morning by five prosecutors and a judge. All have begun programs to find prison alternatives for drug offenders--the most innovative is in Brooklyn, New York, called DTAP.

DTAP is the first prosecution-run program in the country to divert prison-bound felony offenders to residential drug treatment. The program targets drug-addicted defendants arrested for nonviolent felony offenses who have previously been convicted of one or more nonviolent felonies. Qualified defendants enter a felony guilty plea and receive a deferred sentence that allows them to participate in a residential therapeutic community (TC) drug treatment program for a period of 15 to 24 months. Those who successfully complete the program have their charges dismissed; those who fail are brought back to court by a special warrant enforcement team and sentenced to prison. To prevent relapse and reduce recidivism, the District Attorney's Office has formed a Business Advisory Council to identify and develop employment sources in Brooklyn. DTAP also has a job developer to assist graduates in finding and maintaining employment.

What strikes us as particularly notewortthy is that they take repeat offenders. They realize that drug treatment fails the first few times around for many. In New York, under the Rockefellar drug laws, a first offense for over 1/8 ounce is 15 to life. For a second offense of less than 1/8 of an ounce, it's still 41/2 to 9 years. And these are mandatory minimum sentences.

It costs $56,000 to house a Brooklyn inmate a year (including costs of prosectuion.) It costs about $18,000. to run them through the program. Their recidivism results have been very low. Credit for the prograqm goes to Charles Hynes, Brooklyn's DA.

San Bernadino County in California is another jurisidiction with an innovative program. They give you three strikes, at drug treatment and more, make the program available to those beyond the reach of Prop 36--people who commit minor type (quality of life) crimes rather than drug crimes--but whose drug problems contributed to the offense. Both the judge who oversees the cases and the district attorney who administers spoke with us this morning. They have only had 1 offender who reoffended out of hundreds in the program.

Our stats are from memory, we left the report in the meeting room, we will edit later if we misquoted.

This afternoon will be mostly devoted to updates on the progress of the SAFE Act and similar terror-related legislative proposals. Also on tap are Innocence related proposals that we (the criminal justice section) will vote yea or nay on --if it's yea, they then go to the House of Delagates in August, where the section's two respresenatives, Neal Sonnett of Miami and Professor Stephen Saltzberg of Georgetown will try to shephard them through.

Also we will have an update on the Kennedy Commission hearings.

lunch over. more later, wireless connection permitting.

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