Drug Courts May Invite a New - and Surprising - Type of Therapeutic Alliance

    • September 30, 2000

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals commissioned an observational study of the interaction of drug court judges with offenders and jurors.

Drug courts were first established in Miami, Fla., in 1989 as a way to divert nonviolent, drug-abusing offenders to court-supervised drug treatment.

The principal investigator observed 15 courtrooms on site or by film and interviewed 23 judges in person or by telephone to inquire about:

  • Their impressions of their relationship with drug court participants
  • The models and framework that guide their practice
  • Their understanding of addiction.

Key Findings

Preliminary observations based on the study's small, nonrepresentative sample revealed:

  • Although there are a wide variety of courtroom environments and styles of proceedings, judges share similar views as to their roles.

  • Interviews with the judges suggested that drug court processes were often dictated more by workload than by judges' conceptions of how a drug court should be run.

  • Judges also indicated that they valued the relationship between themselves and the defendant.

    An article on the study was published in the first edition of the National Drug Court Institute Review, a professional journal for drug court personnel.