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Assessment of the Feasibility of Drug Night Courts

NCJ Number
B E Smith; R C Davis; S R Goretsky; A J Lurigio; S J Popkin
Date Published
June 1993
33 pages
Publication Series
This national survey sought to determine whether cities other than Chicago had experience with running drug court sessions at night. Respondents were asked whether they currently or ever operated courtrooms at night and whether they had ever considered night operations.
Questionnaires were sent to the presiding judge, district attorney, and public defender in the 50 largest counties of the United States, including Cook County, Illinois. Responses were received from 130 officials representing all jurisdictions sampled. Survey findings revealed that eight courts had current night operations. Six courts had night hours in the past, and 10 courts said they had considered implementing night hours. Only 18 percent of respondents believed that officials in their cities would support the idea of night operations. Obstacles to night court included insufficient resources, security concerns, lack of interest, no need, problems with jurors or witnesses, productivity, and quality of justice. Aside from Cook County, all current night operations were only for arraignments and, therefore, not directly relevant to the research. Two courts that had previously run night operations had relevant experiences (Brooklyn, New York, and Los Angeles). In Cook County, each department in the night court system had to be creative in finding ways to staff drug night courts and assure staff could obtain the necessary information and support after regular hours. The experience of Cook County demonstrated that night operations can be efficient, that efforts must be made to ensure the quality of justice is not compromised in drug cases, that quality staff can be found for evening hours, and that jurisdictions considering evening operations must be alert to special problems encountered by staff when working at night. Detailed information on the survey sample is appended. References and exhibits are also included.

Date Published: June 1, 1993