Drug Courts are an important development in treating the substance-abusing offender.
Quoted from W. Clinton Terry, III, Associate Professor in the Criminal Justice Program at Florida International University:
"There is something new in the courts of America. They have been taking a new look at how the criminal justice system handles drug offenders. With the press of drug cases on judicial dockets, judges have sought alternative means to expedite cases through the system. Although expedited case-management strategies and specialized drug courts helped process cases faster and allowed judges more time to deal with serious felony cases, drug offenders continued to reoffend and reappear before the judiciary, often in the same courtroom. From these beginnings, the new paradigm of dedicated drug treatment courts arose (Terry, 1999, p.1)."
There are six Criminal Courts in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee. Each of these Courts handles approximately 2000 cases per year. Approximately 80% of these cases will involve either drugs or alcohol. In addition, research indicates that at least 60% of the people charged in those cases have a chemical dependency problem. Before 1995, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) facility in Nashville was the only penal institution in the State of Tennessee that offered any type of long-term treatment for addiction. It was apparent to the Judges of the Criminal Courts that the recidivism rate for persons appearing before them with a chemical dependency problem was extremely high.
In 1995, the Judges became aware of a program called “drug court” that was attempting to combat the lack of treatment for chemically dependent offenders. The program was offered in the form of Federal grants through the United States Department of Justice. Judge Seth Norman, Judge of the Division IV Criminal Court, and Donna Blackbourne, the Davidson County Criminal Court Coordinator, began work on an application for a study grant to determine the value of such a program for Davidson County. The application was submitted, and a study grant was approved by the Department of Justice.
Initially it was believed that an outpatient program would be the most feasible for Davidson County. Because it was originally believed that all of those persons placed in the program would be on some type of release in the community, i.e., probation, community corrections, etc., it was determined that Court should be held after normal working hours. A regular Drug Court docket was set up to convene every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. This procedure proved to be effective, and it became immediately apparent that the people placed in the program could succeed if they were monitored closely. The successful operation of this program made another problem blatantly obvious. People who needed treatment the most were not subject to any kind of release into the community. It was evident that a residential facility was needed. Such an idea had never been tried under the Federal Drug Court program. There was no such program in operation in the entire United States.
After it was evidenced that the Drug Court was operating successfully, Judge Norman and the Director for Community Corrections began to look for a facility that could be used for residential treatment. In the southern part of the county they found a possible site, a huge tract of land that had formerly been used as a state mental health facility. Many of the buildings on that site had been constructed before World War II, were ancient and had been abandoned by the state leaving them in a dismal state of repair. The State of Tennessee returned the use of this land to Davidson County, and following the inspection of all available buildings; one two-story dormitory style structure was selected as a potential site for a residential facility.
The original concept for a residential treatment program would have each applicant undergo 90 days of intensive drug treatment by qualified treatment counselors. Thereafter, the individual would be placed in a halfway house environment and would be required to work a forty-hour a week job and return to the facility each day after work. This “aftercare” would last an additional 90 days. Another novel idea required the individual to pay a portion of his net income as room and board, another portion thereof to his or her court related costs and the remainder to be placed in savings for the individual so that they would have funds when they left the program.
The program had no funds for furniture, sheets, food or other necessities of life to sustain the program. Through the assistance of the Office of the District Attorney General for Davidson County and the Metropolitan Police Department, the program was able to apply for and receive a Byrne grant, which would help fund some of these expenses. For bare essentials such as furniture, all of the old buildings on the facility grounds were searched and a successful scrounging effort provided us with sufficient discarded equipment to open the doors. The building was filthy; its last occupant had not treated it well. In short, it was almost untenable. We were aware that there were a number of males in local jails who wanted treatment for drug addiction. We went to them and told them what the condition of the building was. We told them that if they were willing to move to the facility and work to make the premises tenable, we would get them treatment. We had six original volunteers and the Davidson County Residential Drug Treatment Facility opened its doors.
Within a very short period of time it became clear that the concept would work, however, it also became apparent that a female facility was essential. Another building became available and that was set up as the female dormitory. The program was growing each week. Because there were no other similar operations in the United States, we had to “write the book” as we went along. Many innovations were tried, some worked, some didn't. We found that most applicants wanted treatment, but some didn’t. We found that some sanctions worked for minor infractions in the program, but some didn’t. We found that the original plan of a six-month program was not sufficient, and because 95% of the occupants were addicted to some form of cocaine, we found that it takes a minimum of one year to adequately combat this dependency. It was evident that “long-term” treatment was a necessity.
After the program had been in operation for about 18 months, Dell Computer Corporation became interested in relocating some of its manufacturing process to Nashville. After careful study it was determined that the property upon which we were situated was the most attractive. Because the Metropolitan Government for Davidson County had approved our facility, it was the county’s responsibility to relocate our facility. As the result, in 2000, a new 3 million facility was constructed adjacent to the Bordeaux Hospital in northwest Nashville.
What started as an outpatient drug court program has now evolved into a multi-faceted "integrated court program" which consists of residential, intensive outpatient and aftercare components. The DC4 Campus includes all core components of a re-entry program for non-violent offenders (housing, substance abuse and co-occurring treatment services, court supervision, education and vocational training, alumni association and home group self-help meetings, etc.) together in a centrally located location. If not for this program, these offenders would be housed by the Tennessee Department of Corrections. The overall program has the capacity to serve about 171 offenders.