Bronx (NY) Treatment Court

Program Goals

The Bronx Treatment Court (BxTC) in New York City provides an alternative to probation and confinement for first-time nonviolent felony drug offenders. The goals of the treatment court are to decrease any delays in case processing and to reduce offenders’ drug dependency and criminal activity while maintaining public safety. The court uses a postplea model, which means defendants plead guilty to an eligible drug charge before participating in the program. Defendants also agree to a specific sentence should they fail the program. Should defendants graduate from the program, pending drug charges against a defendant may be dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor.


Target Population/Eligibility

Defendants are considered paper eligible if they are arrested on nonviolent felony charges, do not have a prior felony conviction, are 19 years of age or older, and are not arrested on charges involving drug sale near school property. Paper eligibility is established through an automatic screening process.


At arraignment, eligible cases are adjourned to the drug court, and a treatment liaison from a local treatment program conducts a clinical assessment of the defendant. The assessment helps determine whether a defendant has an addiction and is clinically eligible to participate in the program. If the assessment determines that a defendant does not have a drug addiction, or suffers from severe medical or mental health issue that could compromise the effectiveness of court-mandated treatment, the defendant is ineligible to participate in BxTC.


Defendants that are found to be eligible must agree to plead guilty to a drug felony in order to participate in the drug court program. Once they become participants of BxTC, all defendants agree to the same treatment mandate. The treatment mandate involves at least 11 months of participation in drug court, divided into three phases of treatment. The first phase requires 60 days of drug-free participation and compliant time. The second phase requires 5 months of general compliance, and the final phase requires 4 consecutive months of drug-free and compliant time. The first two phases generally focus on compliance (e.g., trying to maintain abstinence, attending treatment, attending all scheduled court appearances, and avoiding warranting). During these phases, the program uses a compliant time clock, which is stopped when a sanction occurs and may be restarted afterwards. The third phase is the only phase that officially requires participants to complete an extended and consecutive drug-free period.


In addition to the time requirements of compliance and abstinence, drug court participants must be working, be enrolled in a full-time training program, be enrolled in school, or have a Supplemental Security Income application pending.


Services Provided

BxTC uses a case management and treatment model where the court maintains a close working relationship with a core group of seven treatment providers. The providers serve as the primary providers of treatment and as the onsite clinical assessment team that reviews new cases. Treatment providers may run outpatient and inpatient programs, residential programs, gender-specific programs for mothers, methadone-to-abstinence programs, or a detoxification-of-methadone program. There is also a treatment provider that works specifically with offenders who are mentally ill chemical abusers. Aside from treatment services, most providers offer individual and group counseling, life skills training, education, job training, and job placement. BxTC refers each defendant to the treatment provider that will best suit the individual’s needs.


The provider-centered model allows the court to rapidly place new participants into a treatment program. Once a defendant agrees to participate in BxTC, for example, they can almost immediately be placed into a treatment slot in one of the core programs (usually that same day). The model also reduces drug court costs because case management functions are incorporated into the responsibilities of treatment providers.


Most of the treatment providers offer outpatient treatment, which reflects the drug court’s preference in using an outpatient modality when possible. Since BxTC is an alternative to incarceration, the overall philosophy is to provide community-based treatment alternatives, allowing participants to remain living at home if possible. Inpatient rehabilitation or residential programs are available only if a participant first tries outpatient treatment and encounters problems.


Participation in BxTC requires appearances before the drug court judge at least twice a month during the first phase of treatment and once a month in subsequent phases. During court appearances, the judge speaks with each defendant about how treatment is going or why there has been a problem, typically observing any progress or noncompliance during these conversations. The judge administers a system of rewards and sanctions based on participants’ compliance with program requirements. Infractions from the program could include a positive drug test, a missed appointment with treatment providers or the court, consistent lateness, or violation of court rules. BxTC has a formal sanctions schedule that indicates which infractions could lead to a particular type of sanction. Sanctions can include time in jail (ranging from 1 to 25 days), returning to an earlier phase of the treatment mandate, more frequent drug testing, or attending more restrictive drug treatment. Compliant behavior can be rewarded with advancement to the next treatment phase, praise from the judge, and applause from everyone present in court.


Participants can fail to graduate from BxTC due to repeated noncompliance, a new arrest, or voluntary opt-out from the program. Usually a participant does not fail due to noncompliance unless terminated from an outpatient program and from at least two inpatient programs. A new arrest may or may not lead to program failure, depending on the specifics of the new case. Program participants who fulfill the time requirements of the treatment mandate, such as completing 4 months of consecutive and drug-free time during the final phase, can have the charges of their case dismissed or reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.


Key Personnel

Treatment liaisons come from each of the core treatment providers. They make regular visits to the court on different days of the week to assess new defendants, find suitable placements for eligible participants, and report to the court on the progress of participants already enrolled in the program.


Three case managers work directly for the drug court. They perform more of a coordinating role in the program by connecting new cases with a treatment liaison and performing initial assessments of defendants only if no liaison is available. One case manager focuses specifically on outpatient cases, while the other focuses on residential cases. Case managers are available to meet with BxTC participants if they need to discuss a problem with treatment. Unlike similar drug courts in New York, participants are not required to meet with case managers on a regular basis. Instead, monitoring, support, and troubleshooting are primarily concerns of the counselors at the treatment providers.


The courtroom members also include the drug court judge, the judge’s law clerk, a Legal Aid attorney, and a representative from the District Attorney’s office. The judge meets with a Legal Aid attorney and a representative from the District Attorney’s office every morning to discuss each case on the day’s calendar.

Intervention ID

19 to 100


Study 1

Postarrest Recidivism

Rempel and colleagues (2003) found that participation in the Bronx Treatment Court (BxTC) resulted in significant reductions in recidivism up to 3 years after the initial arrest. After 1 year, 27 percent of drug court participants had a new conviction, versus 36 percent of the comparison group. After 2 years, 34 percent of participants had a new conviction, versus 48 percent of comparison group members. After 3 years, the difference was 35 percent versus 50 percent. The 3-year difference means that the BxTC generated a 30 percent relative recidivism reduction compared to the recidivism level of the comparison group.


When examining the total number of convictions, the comparison group had almost twice as many as the drug court group (1.20 versus 0.68, respectively). There was, however, no significant difference in the average time to first rearrest leading to conviction. Thus participation in BxTC resulted in about half as much recidivism, but among those who did recidivate, drug court recidivists did not remain crime-free for any longer than individuals in the comparison group.


Multivariate analyses confirmed the strong impact of drug court participation on recidivism measures. The analysis also showed that, despite the substantial reduction in recidivism from drug court participation, prior criminal behavior was an even more powerful predictor of recidivism. Survival analysis showed that BxTC participants were most vulnerable for rearrest in the first 6 months after the initial arrest, prior to fully participating in the drug court treatment process. The survival analysis also showed that 3 years after initial arrest, 65 percent of drug court participants survived (i.e., avoided rearrest) versus 50 percent of the comparison group.


Postprogram Recidivism

Part of the analysis looked at in-program and postprogram recidivism for drug court participants only. The results showed that, contrary to expectations, recidivism was significantly more common during the in-program period. Seventy percent of BxTC participants were crime free during the in-program period, compared to 84 percent during the postprogram period. This finding is consistent with the results from the survival analysis, which showed that recidivism occurs mainly during the first 6 months postarrest, not during the latter part of drug court participation.


The analysis of the impact of drug court participation 1 year after program completion showed that BxTC generated a substantial reduction in postprogram recidivism. Although 29 percent of the comparison group recidivated within a year of leaving the criminal justice system, only 16 percent of drug court participants recidivated during this time. Thus, participating in BxTC led to a 45 percent postprogram recidivism reduction relative to the recidivism level of the comparison group. BxTC participants were also less likely to engage in specific types of reoffending, including misdemeanors, felonies, and drug-related offenses. Multivariate analyses confirmed the results that showed drug court participants were significantly less likely than comparison group members to reoffend.


When looking at final program status, only 4 percent of drug court graduates had a new conviction within 1 year after completing the program, compared to 29 percent of program failures. Program graduates were also less likely to engage in each specific type of reoffending. The postprogram recidivism of BxTC failures and the comparison group, on the other hand, were almost identical on measures of recidivism. Therefore, the benefits of drug court appear to primarily be of advantage to those participants who successfully complete the program.

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