Drug Court Pioneer, Judge John Schwartz, Celebrates Last Graduation Ceremony
Judge John Schwartz founded the first Drug Court of New York in Rochester in 1995—at a time when the idea was highly controversial. On Friday, Oct. 25, Judge Schwartz presided over his last graduation as he prepares for well-deserved retirement.
Judge John Schwartz started his career in 1983 as a Rochester City Court Judge and has accomplished a tremendous amount for the New York Drug Courts. The Honorable Judge Schwartz has received several prestigious awards for his contributions to the Courts and his positive impact on the community throughout his career.
His last graduation class was monumentally successful; 85 newly clean and sober participants graduated—the largest group in the court’s 16-year history!
“It’s our largest graduating class ever and it’s been a great day,” said Judge Schwartz. “We’ve had a lot of success stories at this court and I’m very proud of them.”
It was the 46th graduation ceremony at the Hall of Justice in the Rochester City Court, and more than 200 people from across New York attended.
One particular special guest, Beth Coombs—a graduate in Judge Schwartz’s first class—traveled from California to speak on behalf of his groundbreaking work in the Drug Court field. “He put his reputation on the line so we could have a new way of life,” said Coombs, who currently works for a nonprofit association.
Another speaker on behalf of Judge Schwartz was West Huddleston, CEO of National Association of Drug Court Professionals, who praised Schwartz’s achievements within the state of New York and the Drug Court.
“[He] is an icon in the Drug Court profession who helped pave the way for others. As a visionary, he understood the value, the need and the potential of Drug Courts, and he put in the hard work needed to make the dream of Drug Courts a reality,” said Huddleston. “The domino effect Judge Schwartz has had on the Rochester community, the state of New York and the Drug Court profession is immeasurable.”
Montgomery County Juvenile Court Celebrates 15 Drug Court Graduates
In celebration of National Drug Court Month, Montgomery County Juvenile Court held a graduation ceremony celebrating youth who have successfully overcome drug and alcohol abuse.
National Drug Court Month is coordinated on a National level by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP). This year, Drug Courts throughout the nation are celebrating National Drug Court Month with the theme ‘Drug Courts: Where Accountability Meets Compassion.’ This uplifting commencement ceremony is evidence of the tremendous impact the Montgomery County Juvenile Drug Court has had on our community and will send a powerful message that Drug Courts are a proven budget solution that saves lives and dollars.
Like the other 2,700 operational Drug Courts in the United States, the Montgomery County Juvenile Drug Court is a judicially-supervised court docket that reduces correctional costs, protects community safety, and improves public welfare. In Drug Court, seriously drug-addicted individuals remain in treatment while under close supervision. Drug Court participants must meet their obligation to themselves, their families, and society. To ensure accountability, they are regularly and randomly tested for drug use, required to appear frequently in court for the judge to review their progress, rewarded for doing well and sanctioned for not living up to their obligations. Research continues to show that Drug Courts work better than jail or prison, better than probation, and better than treatment alone.
Fifteen young men and women were among this year’s graduates. The ceremony marked their completion of an intensive program of comprehensive drug treatment, case management, mandatory drug testing, community supervision and incentives and sanctions to encourage appropriate behavior.
Plan to Celebrate National Drug Court Month in May
Reclaiming Futures works in 37 communities across the country to break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime. In about one-third of those sites, Reclaiming Futures partners with drug courts, which, according to years of research, work better than jail, prison, probation or treatment alone to significantly reduce drug use and crime.
To celebrate this, and the many lives that have been saved, please join us, and plan ahead for National Drug Court Month in May.
Here are some ideas for celebrating in your community (adapted from the National Association for Drug Court Professionals):
- Hold a commencement ceremony to recognize the accomplishments of participants.
- Schedule a meeting with your members of congress while they are home for Constituent Work Week, May 1-3 and 28-31. Have your Drug Court judge and graduate attend the meetings to educate policymakers.
- Organize a community clean up. Clean a park, street, highway or school. Invite all treatment, mental health, court, law enforcement and probation staff to join in.
- Start a local donation drive.
SAMHSA: Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts Break Cycle of Drugs, Alcohol and Crime
Across the country, juvenile treatment drug courts (JTDC) are helping teens achieve better outcomes by focusing on treatment and family engagement. JTDCs treat teens for both substance abuse problems and mental health issues, as needed. As David Morrissette, senior program manager at SAMHSA, explained to SAMHSA News, "up to 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have mental health disorders and more than 60 percent of those also have a substance use disorder."
The latest issue of SAMHSA News highlights a number of successful drug court programs, including Reclaiming Futures. From the article [emphasis mine]:
In a 2012 evaluation [ppt] examining data from 1,934 young people participating in drug courts at 17 CSAT grantee sites, evaluators found that participants saw a 26 percent increase in the number of days they abstained from alcohol and other drugs between intake and a 1-year follow-up. Participants' scores on a scale measuring emotional problems and difficulties with self-control declined by 16 percent. The average number of crimes reported dropped by half.
According to the evaluation, a more intensive approach to juvenile treatment drug courts called Reclaiming Futures reached youth with more severe problems, provided more services, and did an even better job of increasing abstinence, reducing emotional problems, and reducing criminal behavior.
"There are six stages in the [Reclaiming Futures] model," said SAMHSA Project Officer Holly Rogers, M.A. "These include screening and assessing young people to identify alcohol or substance use problems, coordinating services across agencies, helping kids and families make an initial contact with services, getting them actively engaged in services, and transitioning them out of services and into long-term supports, such as helping relationships and community resources."
Ventura Teen Finds Hope Through Juvenile Drug Court
An estimated 130 young people arrested each year in Ventura County, California, are diagnosed with substance abuse or co-occurring mental illness problems. But there is good news for these teens and their families.
Ventura County's juvenile drug court is turning young lives around with the help of Reclaiming Futures.
Our team recently worked with "JM" to access appropriate treatment and connect to a support system beyond treatment.
The Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Teen Crime
Consistent and substantial evidence exists that supports the relationship between substance abuse and criminal behaviors in youth. Youthful offenders demonstrate elevated rates of substance abuse in comparison to non-offending youth.  Substance abuse often increases recidivism and reflects a deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system. Drug and alcohol use also increases the likelihood that a youthful offender will have prolonged interaction with the juvenile justice system.  In addition, substance abuse produces antisocial behavior in youth. Severe substance abuse is associated with increased rates of offending and more serious offenses. Furthermore, the younger the child is at the onset of substance use usually reflects greater probabilities for severe and chronic offending.
For example, in 2010, the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission found that twenty-five percent of all the juveniles referred were “frequent drug users.” In 2009, forty-seven percent of children committed to the Texas Youth Commission were chemically dependent. Less than half of these chemically dependent children received any type of substance abuse treatment.  The development of effective substance abuse treatment programs for juvenile offenders should be considered a “vital component” for overall rehabilitation efforts.
$400,000 Federal Grant to Study Minorities in Juvenile Justice and More; News Roundup
Juvenile Justice Reform
- Teens Get a Second Chance (SouthBendTribune.com)
It is not mission impossible for the Juvenile Justice Center teens enrolled in the first year "Mission Possible" program at the South Bend Kroc Center. According to the Childrens and Youth Ministries Manager Jacqueline Davis, the mission is to try to give struggling teens a new direction.
- Federal Grant to Help Study Minorities in Juvenile Justice (WyandotteDailyNews.com)
U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom reported that a $400,000 federal grant to the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority will help evaluate disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system.
- ROCA Selected for New Social Investment Program (Chelsea Record)
Massachusetts will be the first state to implement the ‘pay for success’ model of social financing through a Juvenile Justice contract and ROCA of Chelsea will help lead the effort with two Social Innovation Financing (SIF) contracted partners.
- New Texas Juvenile Justice Priorities Could be in Jeopardy (PublicNewsService.org)
Recent improvements to the long-troubled juvenile justice system in Texas are already in jeopardy, if a just-released survey of officials in 73 county youth probation departments is any indication.
- Feds: Mississippi County Runs 'School-to-Prison Pipeline' (CNN.com)
Officials in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, have operated "a school-to-prison pipeline" that violates the constitutional rights of juveniles by incarcerating them for alleged school disciplinary infractions, some as minor as defiance, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.
- Memphis Begins Reforms of Beleaguered Juvenile Court (TheCommercialAppeal.com)
Shelby County, Tennessee court officials say they will move the juvenile defense system from Juvenile Court oversight and place it under the office in charge of defending adults.
- Juvenile Justice Sets up Tip Line (The Augusta Chronical)
The Atlanta, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice has a new investigative tool: a Web site where people can report suspicious activities at the state’s youth detention centers and court-services offices.
King County, Washington Buys into Juvenile Justice and More; News Roundup
Juvenile Justice Reform
- Opinion: A Broken Juvenile Justice System (The Baltimore Sun)
Youthful offenders at Baltimore Detention Center won't be better off if the state builds a new $70 million juvenile jail; the whole policy of charging minors as adults needs rethinking.
- Times Editorial: Voters buy into Need for New Juvenile-Justice Center (The Seattle Times)
Voters rightly grasped that this proposal was not about new jail beds, but about a critical investment in a public service. The alternative, sinking an estimated $40 million into repairing the current buildings, was not the answer.
- Despite Supreme Court Ruling, Many Minors May Stay in Prison for Life (ProPublica)
Under the Supreme Court's ruling, minors can still get life without parole sentences — just not automatically after a conviction; instead a judge will need to decide, taking into account the minor's youth.
OJP Releases Fact Sheet on Drug Courts
The Office of Justice Programs, in collaboration with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the National Institute of Justice, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, has released the fact sheet, “Drug Courts.”
This fact sheet examines adult and juvenile drug court program models and OJP’s support of adult and juvenile drug courts. It also provides facts, research findings, and additional resources regarding drug courts.
The fact sheet is available online.
Read the fact sheet, at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/238527.pdf.
Live Blogging JMATE: The Juvenile Drug Court and Reclaiming Futures Models
This afternoon we heard about an upcoming evaluation of six Reclaiming Futures juvenile drug courts. Bridget Ruiz, a technical expert on adolescents from JBS International, chaired the session and opened the panel presentation with a discussion of the history of juvenile drug courts and Reclaiming Futures and also outlined the important elements of each approach.
“Evidence shows that combining the two models has been effective in helping young people, “ said Ruiz, who formerly was an associate professor at the University of Arizona.
Erika Ostlie, a senior policy associate at Carnevale Associates, gave an overview of an upcoming evaluation supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) of six federally funded Reclaiming Futures sites.