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Increasing Our Understanding of the Recovery Process Through Drug Court Narratives, Technical Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 1999
66 pages
This report presents the methodology and findings of research whose general goal was to use narrative data from observation of the Syracuse Community Treatment Court (New York) sessions and interviews with clients and treatment professionals to identify problems and typologies of recovery, as well as to generate testable hypotheses regarding factors that influence recovery for people in the criminal justice system who have chemical dependencies.
The Syracuse Community Treatment Court (SCTC) is a "drug court" that provides treatment of nonviolent, chemically dependent, felony and misdemeanor defendants; the suspension of traditional adversarial behavior between the parties in the court; frequent monitoring of abstinence by urinalysis; ongoing interaction between the judge and program participants; and adoption of a system of rewards and sanctions in response to degrees of compliance with program requirements. Project staff observed and recorded notes during 104 SCTC open-court sessions at which 168 clients were scheduled to appear between January 15, 1997, and April 28, 1999. Staff conducted seven interviews with clients who were scheduled to graduate from the program at the time of the interview. Interviews were also conducted with three treatment providers and two court staff to determine their perspectives on the court and recovery issues. Problems identified by participants that affected their compliance with court requirements were employment, legal issues, physical health, housing, and health insurance. Patterns of recovery differed among program graduates. Some moved through recovery with few problems, some required time to achieve an effective response to treatment, others occasionally relapsed, and others chronically relapsed during program participation. Those who moved through the treatment process in a compliant manner mentioned few problems at the individual and structural levels. The relationship between the nature of graduates' problems and their patterns of recovery suggests that treatment providers and case managers must be more attentive to the various problems that impact participants' likelihood of compliance and recovery. 4 tables, appended observer notes, and 40 references

Date Published: December 1, 1999