Character motivation: treatment courts

In Books, Crooks & Counselors, I wrote about drug courts, mental health courts, and other treatment courts designed to give offenders with identifiable problems–sometimes called “co-occurring conditions”–extra resources. The goal is to provide intensive management and supervision to help them solve the underlying problems, e.g., requiring regular check-ins, making sure they attend AA or NA meetings, obtain psychological counseling, and work or attend school–helping them become contributing members of society while reducing the risk of future criminal offenses.

A 2011 report from the Montana Supreme Court, Office of the Court Administrator, tracks their success. The results are encouraging. 

On average, in Montana, nearly 54% who enroll graduate. National studies show similar rates.

• “During the 30-month study period there were 123 documented reoffenses including 21 felonies and 102 misdemeanors for a reoffense rate of 15.47%. When broken out by type of offense, (i.e., misdemeanor vs. felony) the rates are as follows: 2.6% felony and 12.8% misdemeanor.”

• 162 participants who were out of the program for two years or more committed 19 offenses (2 felonies and 17 misdemeanors), for an 11.7% overall reoffense rate. The report says “This rate of reoffense compares very favorably to traditional criminal justice system reoffense rates for alcohol and other drug dependent offenders.”

• “Adult Drug Court graduates reported a 17.6% increase in employment from admission to graduation. Family Drug Court graduates report a 61.8% increase in employment from admission to graduation.” When parents work, kids do better economically.

• “Adult Drug Court participants reported a 21.4% increase in adults getting a high school education, GED or attending some technical school/college. For the 86 Juvenile Drug Court cases there was a 350% increase in the number of participants receiving a high school diploma/ GED or some college.”

• “Forty-four of the 115 graduates that did not have a driver’s license at admission received a license by graduation.” Most likely those licenses were lost because of DUIs. Reinstatement reflects sobriety.

Funding problems continue. At the same time as some counties are adding drug, family, and veterans court, others are cutting treatment courts.

The easy-to-read report opens with a letter from a graduate, and provides a useful analysis of a variety of approaches with statistical results.

Are your fictional characters candidates for a treatment court? Graduates or drop-outs referred back to prosecution? A family member helping, or standing in the way? Staff? A mental health counselor fighting to keep a treatment court operating?


7 thoughts on “Character motivation: treatment courts

  1. Wouldn’t help my characters, since they were pre tx courts. I worked in the state mental health system for years and would applaud any court that actually understood mental illness and substance abuse. KB

    • I think it’s critical to recognize that these courts aren’t giving offenders “a free ride.” Graduates avoid jail, and typically get deferred prosecution, but they have to work hard. The offender I described in Books, Crooks was the first graduate of the drug court in Billings — Montana’s largest city — and the list of of his required court appearances, visits to his probation officer, drug tests, counseling sessions, AA meetings, and full-time work, plus AND voluntary community service, would exhaust the Energizer Bunny.

  2. Fascinating study. We never know what happens to people after the judge’s gavel comes down. This is a great insight into a program that actually appears to be helping the substance abuse problem, rather than perpetuating it.

Leave a Reply