1. Queens (NY) Treatment Court

Queens (NY) Treatment Court

Program Goals

The Queens Treatment Court (QTC) is a drug court program for first-time nonviolent felony drug offenders who are arrested in Queens County, New York. The court seeks to reduce recidivism among persistent drug offenders with a history of substance abuse by providing them with drug or alcohol treatment services. The mission of QTC is to provide offenders with the tools necessary for long-term sobriety, using court-supervised treatment and case management services as an alternative to incarceration.


Target Population/Eligibility

Defendants are paper eligible for QTC if they are arrested on drug felony charges but do not have a prior felony conviction or a prior violent misdemeanor conviction. The most serious (A–1 and A–2) felony drug charges are excluded. Potential eligible cases are screened at arraignment by an Assistant District Attorney (ADA).


A case manager from the Treatment Alternative for Safer Community (TASC), an independent agency used for case management services by many court-mandated treatment programs in New York City, performs a clinical assessment of paper-eligible defendants. Cases may be rejected if the assessment finds that defendants do not need drug treatment, if defendants refuse the treatment plan, or if defendants appear to have a co-occurring mental illness. TASC does, however, see current illegal drug use, even at low levels, as a potential gateway to future addictive behavior. Therefore, at-risk defendants who currently use illegal drugs but may not yet be an addict are eligible even if drug use is infrequent, such as three times per week or even just one or two times per month. If a defendant is found to be eligible based on the clinical assessment, they plead guilty to the drug charge and enter the drug court program.


Program Components

The QTC uses a postplea adjudication model, which means defendants plead guilty to an eligible drug charge before participating in the program. A standard formula is used by the court to determine the severity of the top charge in the plea agreement. Participants also agree to a sentence of incarceration that is served if they fail out of the program and treatment is not completed. Typical sentences can range from 1 to 3 years, depending on the individual’s criminal history.


After being accepted into the program, all participants must agree to the same treatment mandate, which requires at least 12 months of participation in QTC, divided into three phases of treatment. Each phase of treatment requires 4 consecutive sanctionless months before participants can move on to the next phase. The program does not require all counted time in each phase be drug free; rather, the emphasis is on sanctionless time. This means that if the court decides not to sanction a particular infraction, such as a positive urine test, the participant will not lose time.


QTC participants are also required to appear in drug court each week for the 1st month of the program, which is gradually downgraded to an appearance every 2 weeks, then every 4 weeks. Usually by phase 2 of treatment, participants report to court on a monthly basis. During court appearances, the judge will ask participants about their progress in treatment and any problems they may be having. Judges will impose sanctions on participants that are not complying with the treatment mandate.


Case managers develop an appropriate treatment plan for each participant, based on the duration and frequency of drug use, primary drug of choice, living situation, family support, and criminal history. Participants are referred to one of more than 40 community-based treatment programs spanning all modalities (such as residential, short-term rehabilitation, and intensive outpatient). The treatment plan also includes requirements for regular drug and alcohol testing, medical screening, attendance at educational or vocational programs, and participation in self-help groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (or NA). While in treatment, participants also set goals to improve other parts of their lives, such as education, employment, and reconnecting with family.


In the event a participant is not in compliance with program requirements or is arrested for a new charge, QTC has a formal sanctions schedule, although the schedule is more advisory, and drug court judges frequently make case-by-base decisions. A new felony arrest will always result in failure from the program, as will repeated noncompliance or opting out.


Key Personnel

The QTC began through the collaboration of the Queen’s District Attorney’s Office, the Legal Aid Society, the Queens County Supreme Court, the New York State Unified Court System, and the Office of the Chief Administrative Judge of New York City in response to the increasing percentage of first-time drug felony cases that accounted for criminal court arraignments in Queens.


TASC performs all of the case management functions, including assessment, treatment matching, and ongoing monitoring. The QTC resource coordinator is crucial in maintaining interstaff coordination of the program. Every morning, the resource coordinator meets with the TASC case managers to review the court calendar and discuss problems with any of the program participants. The resource coordinator also meets with the judge to review the calendar and make decisions on treatment promotions and sanctions.


The drug court team additionally includes the project director, the judge, the judge’s law clerk, the ADA, and defense attorneys. This team, along with the TASC case managers and resource coordinator, meets every week to focus on a select number of problem cases and to discuss any outstanding programmatic issues.


Additional Information

This program is different from the Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Court, which focuses on providing treatment services for nonfelony (misdemeanor) drug offenders.

Intervention ID

18 to 100


Study 1

The study by Rempel and colleagues (2003) found that participation in New York’s Queens Treatment Court (QTC) had a significant impact on recidivism rates. In fact, the QTC program produced one of the largest recidivism impacts of any drug court nationwide that has been evaluated to date of the study.


Postarrest Recidivism

After 1 year, only 10 percent of QTC participants had a new arrest that led to a conviction, versus 31 percent of the comparison group. After 2 years, the difference was 18 percent, compared to 42 percent for the comparison group; after three years, the difference grew to 29 percent versus 55 percent. The results show that after 1 year, the recidivism rate of QTC participants was less than one third as high as the recidivism rate of comparison group members, and by 3 years, QTC still reduced the recidivism rate of participants by near half, reducing it by 47 percent from the initial comparison group level.


When examining the number of recidivist convictions, the comparison group had more than twice as many convictions by the 3-year mark. Among study participants who had at least one reconviction during the 3-year study time period, QTC participants remained crime free for significantly longer. Comparison group members who recidivated averaged only 319 days from initial arrest to first rearrest leading to a conviction, while drug court participants who recidivated averaged 543 days. Thus, participation in QTC led to consistently dramatic positive impacts on the probability, prevalence, and timing of recidivism.


With regard to specific charges, QTC participants were one third less likely to have a new felony conviction (12 percent, versus 36 percent of the comparison group), and less likely to have a drug-related conviction (19 percent of participants, versus 43 percent of comparison group members).


Multivariate analysis confirmed the strong impact of the QTC program on recidivism measures. Despite the program's strong impact, prior criminal conviction and age remained powerful predictors of recidivism (defendants with a prior misdemeanor conviction and younger defendants were more likely to recidivate, whether they participated in the drug court program or not). Survival analysis showed that at the 1-year mark, 90 percent of QTC participants had survived (i.e., avoided rearrest), but just 66 percent of the comparison group had survived. The difference between the groups continued through years 2 and 3, suggesting a long-term impact of QTC. By year 3, 71 percent of program participants had survived, compared to 45 percent of comparison group members.


Postprogram Recidivism

This analysis looked at recidivism after participation in QTC ended. Looking at in-program and postprogram recidivism for QTC participants only, there was no difference between the two time periods. Exactly 88 percent of participants were crime-free in both periods, and the average total convictions were almost the same (0.15 for the in-program period and 0.16 for the postprogram period). The results are contrary to expectations that recidivism would increase once the program ended.


Looking at the postprogram period recidivism rates for program participants and comparison group members, QTC again demonstrated a strong impact on reoffending. The recidivism rates for participants were reduced by more than 50 percent from the comparison group level (25 percent of comparison group members had a new conviction, versus 12 percent of drug court participants). When looking at specific charges, 11 percent of comparison group members had new felony convictions, compared to only 4 percent of QTC participants. On misdemeanor and drug-related convictions, 8 percent of program participants and 16 percent of comparison group members had a new conviction, indicating exactly 50 percent reduction in these types of reoffending.


Among QTC participants, drug court graduates were less likely to recidivate compared to drug court failures. One year after program completion, 8 percent of graduates had a new conviction, compared to 22 percent of failures. QTC graduates were also less likely than failures to be arrested for a felony, misdemeanor, and drug-related offense. Furthermore, drug court failures showed similar recidivism rates of the comparison group, showing that the benefits of participating in QTC are primarily experienced by those who graduate from the program. The QTC has a high graduate rate (about 71 percent), so there is a net reduction in the probability of recidivism for most participants, while the remaining 29 percent are no worse off than the average comparison group member.


Consistent with the multivariate analysis of the postarrest results, logistic regression confirmed the strong impact of participating in QTC on whether a reconviction occurred at 1 year post program. Defendants with a prior misdemeanor conviction and younger defendants were also significantly more likely to be reconvicted.


Recidivism for Select Offender Subgroups

Overall, QTC led to reduced recidivism, but the aggregate results did not show whether certain subgroups of offenders performed better than others relative to the comparison group. The analysis of specific offender subgroups showed that QTC produced a 66 percent reduction in recidivism for participants with prior misdemeanor convictions (versus a 35 percent reduction for participants without priors) and a 53 percent recidivism reduction for participants 26 years and older (versus 38 percent reduction of recidivism of participants younger than 26 years old). As the results show, the QTC had significant impacts for all participants, but the magnitude of the impact become even relatively larger for some subgroups of offenders.


To confirm the results, several logistic regressions were performed, looking at 3-year postarrest data. The outcomes of the regressions showed that overall, QTC participants were less likely than comparison group members to reoffend at 3 years after arrest and participants with one or more prior misdemeanor convictions were especially less likely than comparison group members to reoffend.


Although the results suggest that participation in QTC is most effective with a population of offenders that does have a prior criminal record, the drug court program does not target such a population. Defendants with prior felony convictions are not eligible to participate in QTC. Thus, the drug court program could have a greater impact if the program targeted more defendants with a prior criminal record.

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