The Role Of The Prosecutor In Drug Courts

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The Role of the Prosecutor inDrug CourtsCarrie L. Thompson Deputy State Public Defender Colorado Springs, CO

A Very Different Role An effective prosecutor in a drug court has adifferent mindset– Therapeutic approach– Teamwork with the judge, defense attorney, andthe drug court team– Works toward recovery and productive citizenshiprather than incarceration– Belief in the effectiveness of alternative courts

Drug Court Prosecutor CoreCompetencies A drug court prosecutor helps to identify andselect offenders who should participate in theprogram; he/she obtains prior criminalhistories of offenders, participates in teammeetings and attends non-adversarial courtproceedings. NDCI and NDCAP have identified 9 corecompetencies

Competency 1:Participates fully as a Drug Court teammember, committing him or herself to the program mission & goals andworks as a full partner to ensure their success Promptly conducts legal screens on offendersrecommended to drug court Assists in executing all participant waivers and contracts Advocates for prompt sanctions in response to negativeclient behavior Protects integrity for drug court program by monitoringeffectiveness of community supervision Maintains up-to-date record of participant performance Moves for dismissal of participant from program based onfactual history of non-compliance (when appropriate)

Competency 2: The prosecutor, while in Drug Court,participates as a team member, operating in a non-adversarial manner,promoting a sense of unified team presence Attends regularly scheduled court staffings Solicits information regarding participant progress, or lackthereof, from all team members Share information regarding status of the drug court andindividual clients with drug court team members Maintains up-to-date record of participant performance

Competency 3:As part of a Drug Court team, in appropriatenon-court settings (i.e. staffing), the prosecutor advocates for effectiveincentives and sanctions for program compliance or lack thereof. Attends regularly scheduled staffings Requests appropriate incentives and sanctions,based on participant behavior Researches efficacy of drug court’s behaviormodification techniques Argues for swift response to participant behavior Maintains up-to-date record on prior incentives andsanctions given to assure consistency

Competency 4:Ensures community safety concerns by maintainingeligibility standards while participating in a non-adversarial environment whichfocuses on the benefits of therapeutic program outcomes. Moves for dismissal of drug court participantswho no longer meet eligibility criteria Monitors participant behavior for complianceand continued eligibility

Competency 5:Monitors offender progress to define parameters ofbehavior that allow continued program participation and suggest effective incentivesand sanctions for program compliance Attends regularly scheduled staffings Solicits information from team members regarding clientcompliance Vehemently encourages sanctions for client noncomplianceand seeks incentives for client compliance Files motions or other legal document in order to removenoncompliant participants Offers encouragement to participants while reminding themof consequences of noncompliance

Competency 6:Is knowledgeable about addiction, alcoholism andpharmacology generally and applies that knowledge to respond to compliance intherapeutically appropriate manner. Continues to research effective treatmentmodalities Conducts regular quality assurance to ensureappropriate treatment Attends and actively participates in all courtsessions and staffing

Competency 7: Is knowledgeable of gender, age, andcultural issues that may impact the offender’s success Continues to attend training opportunities toinform team members about culturalcompetence

Competency 8:Contributes to the team’s efforts incommunity education and local resource acquisition Assist in researching any potential fundingstreams

Competency 9: Contributes to education of peers,colleagues and judiciary in the efficacy of Drug Courts Oversees integrity of drug court programthrough quality assurance Disseminates information about drug court asfrequently as possible

What does all this mean to me as aprosecutor?Practical ways to be a proactiveProsecutor

#1: Encouraging Applicants Become active in pre-screening defendantsand encouraging application to drug court– Work with Court Services or other agency at thejail to pre-screen possible applicants– Notify the arraignment judge and/or fellowprosecutors that a person might be a goodcandidate for an alternative court– Scan intake or charges ready to be filed forpotential candidates and have a way to ‘flag cases’

#2: Educate your office & otherprosecutors Write articles for local criminal law publications Try to encourage the administration to allow newattorneys to shadow you for a day or two Hold training events for all assistant districtattorneys in your office– Who are good candidates for the program– Admission procedures– Get a group associated with alternative courts toprovide lunch

#3: Encourage graduation and prosocial behavior Orientation speech Reminders at review docketsHolidaysWarning if you see trends (i.e. spice) Be present in staffing and at review dockets Congratulate participants at promotions &encourage continued compliance Attend graduations

Research confirms that the presence of theprosecutor at staffing and review docketsmatters Courts where the prosecutor attended staffingmeetings had an average graduation rate of 58%versus 43% in courts where attendance occurredonly occasionally or not at all. For drug courts where the prosecutor attendeddrug court sessions, graduation rates were higher(55% v. 46%) and there was substantialimprovement in lowering outcome costs relativeto their comparison group.)– NPC Research March 2008http://www.npcresearch.com/Files/NIJ Crosssite Final Report 0308.pdf

Wrapping it up Maintain a mindset of working with your team ontherapeutic approaches toward recovery andproductive citizenship, rather than incarceration Continue to educate yourself about best practices,addiction, alcoholism, and pharmacology Make efforts to educate peers, colleagues, thejudiciary, and the community on the efficacy of DrugCourts Seek ways to encourage more applicants Be present at staff meetings and at court reviews asmuch as possible Encourage pro-social behavior and graduation

Frequently Asked Questions If a participant tests positive on UA, should thesanction be uniform, and should it always be jailtime? If a participant is non-compliant to the degreethat they are eligible for revocation, should allother options be ignored? If the participant has been guilty of a violent actor offense in the past, should they automaticallybe ineligible for a treatment court?

Resources and Training Opportunities National Drug Court Institute: Prosecutor training: This four-day,comprehensive training is designed for prosecutors looking to gainmore in-depth information on their role in Drug Court.Understanding the requirements of Federal confidentiality laws andknowing what information can be disclosed and when is it crucialthe role of a Drug Court Prosecutor. Dana A. Jenkins, ProjectDirector, Phone 571-384-1868; Email: djenkins@ndci.org. The Proactive Prosecutor in Alternative Courts, Tammy Wescott,Assistant District Attorney, Director of Alternative Courts, TulsaCounty, Oklahoma, NADCP, 18th Annual Training Conference, May30, 2012 to June 2, 2012. Ethical Issues for Attorneys in Drug Court: Who’s Team am I on?Hon. Peggy Fulton Hora (ret.), NADCP, 18th Annual TrainingConference, May 30, 2012 to June 2, 2012.

the role of a Drug Court Prosecutor. Dana A. Jenkins, Project Director, Phone 571-384-1868; Email: djenkins@ndci.org. The Proactive Prosecutor in Alternative Courts, Tammy Wescott, Assistant District Attorney, Director of Alternative Courts, Tulsa County, Oklahoma, NADCP, 18th Annual Training Conference, May 30, 2012 to June 2, 2012.

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