Maine’s juvenile drug treatment courts are court supervised, post-plea (but pre-final disposition) drug diversion programs that provide comprehensive community-based treatment services to juvenile offenders and their families. The primary goal of the drug court programs is to reduce substance abuse and the likelihood of arrest among participants.
Maine is one of the few states to successfully implement a statewide system of juvenile drug courts. Currently six juvenile drug courts are in operation, which serve seven counties. The first program in Maine was the Bangor Juvenile Drug Court which became operational on January 26, 2000. The program functions through a collaboration among the Maine District Court, the Maine Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services/Office of Substance Abuse, and the Maine Department of Corrections/Juvenile Services.
The juvenile drug courts target youth who:
- demonstrate a medium to high risk of criminal recidivism;
- demonstrate a substantial substance abuse problem;
- have an ability to participate in substance abuse treatment; and
- have a parent or other adult figure that is willing to participate or play an active role in the youth’s participation in the program.
Referrals can come from a variety of sources, including the district attorney, juvenile community corrections officer (JCCO), defense counsel, school official, or other interested person.
The JCCOs are the primary gatekeepers to the juvenile drug court programs in Maine. They determine if youth are eligible to participate based in part on the Youthful Offender Level of Service Inventory, a screening tool used to measure the risk of reoffending. After being screened by the JCCO, youth who are perceived to have a substance abuse problem are referred to the drug court manager. The drug court manager conducts a clinical assessment that includes interviews, observations, additional standardized testing tools, and file reviews. Once the clinical assessment is complete, the drug court team reviews the case file before making a final decision to admit the youth to the program. Juveniles may only be accepted into the drug court program at a hearing and by an order of the court. This means juveniles must enter a guilty plea to pending charges or accept a motion to revoke probation in order to participate. Juveniles not admitted to the program are returned to court for traditional adjudication.
The juvenile drug court programs run about 52 weeks and are divided into four phases, each with distinct treatment goals and specified completion times:
- First phase: focuses on assessment and planning; lasts approximately 8 weeks.
- Second phase: designed to build support and teach participants about new skills; lasts approximately 20 weeks.
- Third phase: intended to strengthen skills and solidify support; lasts approximately 12 weeks.
- Fourth/Final phase: monitoring phase; lasts about 10 weeks.
To advance to the next phase, participants must abstain from drug and alcohol use, pass a certain number of random tests for drug and alcohol use, attend sessions of substance abuse treatment, appear at weekly status hearings before the designated program judge, and desist from committing any new crimes. Participants are eligible for graduation from the drug court program upon successful completion of the Phase 4 requirements.
Juvenile drug court participants can receive a variety of treatment services, including individual therapy, group therapy, family counseling, intensive outpatient services, and residential services. In addition to treatment for substance abuse, other types of services are offered as well, such as educational programming, job training, mental health services, and recreational planning.
Maine’s juvenile drug courts use rewards and sanctions to ensure compliance to program goals and objectives, but there is no structured sanctions protocol in place. Rather, rewards and sanctions are determined on a case-by-case basis. The decision to reward or sanction a youth is usually decided during a review of participant progress at weekly staffing sessions. The drug court team arrives at a consensus about the particular course of action to take with youth. The presiding judge imposes the sanction or reward during the weekly status hearing. Types of sanctions include detention, community service, house arrest, increased reporting, or a written assignment. Types of rewards include curfew extension, advancement to the next phase, or praise/applause for the youth.
Using a step-wise logistic regression analysis, Anspach and Ferguson (2005) found that Maine's juvenile drug treatment court participants were 1.8 times less likely to recidivate during the 12-month follow-up period compared with the comparison group of matched offenders under traditional probationary supervision. While the result was statistically significant, it suggested the program had only a small effect on recidivism.