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Drug Court Programs in Virginia

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 1999
9 pages
This booklet examines the history, features, structure, and cost-effectiveness of Virginia's drug court programs.
The 23rd Judicial Circuit (Roanoke City, Roanoke County and Salem) was the first jurisdiction in Virginia to establish a drug court (September 1995). Seven other drug court programs have been implemented since then. Four other jurisdictions have received Federal funding to plan drug court programs. The Virginia drug court model features judicial supervision of structured community-based treatment; timely identification of defendants in need of treatment and referral to treatment as soon as possible after arrest; regular status hearings before the judge to monitor treatment progress and program compliance; increased defendant accountability through a series of graduated sanctions and rewards; and mandatory periodic and random drug testing. Some drug courts defer sentencing, and others impose a suspended sentence pending completion of the drug court program. After receiving an assessment that determines whether the offender meets necessary program guidelines, the judge then offers the defendant a chance to enter the drug court programs rather than face possible sentencing options that may include fines, jail time, or prison time. Although the court may offer incentives such as reduced or dismissed sentences for voluntary drug court participation, many offenders choose incarceration or probation instead of the intense treatment and supervision required in a drug court program. If an offender fails to adhere to program requirements or if he/she relapses, the offender is sanctioned and may serve jail time and have drug court time lengthened. Graduation from the drug court program usually occurs within 12 to 18 months after entering the program. Community-based drug court programs offer effective treatment and the ability to treat many more qualified drug offenders for the price now spent on other sentencing alternatives. According to the National Drug Court Institute, drug court impact studies indicate that graduates of various drug court programs throughout the United State have recidivism rates that average between 5 percent and 19 percent.