New South Wales drug courts: once a novelty – today, its business as usual

Published date23 June 2022
Date23 June 2022
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology
AuthorAmanda Ann Clarke
New South Wales drug courts: once a
novelty today, its business as usual
Amanda Ann Clarke
Purpose The purpose of this research is to considersthe degree to which drug courts (DCs) in New
South Wales (NSW) adhere to the ten key components (TKCs), which were developed by the National
Associationof Drug Court Professionals, asa model practice for implementing DCs.
Design/methodology/approach This study reliedupon semi-structured interviewsconducted with 21
professionals who work in the DC field from NSW. The sample represented various stakeholders
responsible for the delivery of drug court programs (DCPs) in NSW. A qualitative analysis was
conducted, this analysis uncovered practices adopted by the DC that go beyond those that were
standardised in the closed-ended questions but nevertheless fell within the TKCs. The qualitative
analysesadded weight to the results determinedby the descriptive statistics.
Findings The results confirm that DCs in NSW adhere to the TKCs that describe successful DCPs
internationally. In spite of this, several key components accomplished higher adherence rates than
others. What can be said is that over 60% of the component’s benchmarks achieved the 80% target
determinedby the writer.
Research limitations/implications The key components that have lower adherence rates are
anticipated and must not be interpreted as undesirable results. DCs are encouraged to modify their
programmecharacteristics to ensure further adherenceto the specified benchmarks. To this extent,high
regardis given to the practicesadopted and identified through the qualitativedata analysis.
Practical implications The recommendationsmade to DCs in NSW are consistent with implementing
model DCPsas defined by the National Association of Drug CourtProfessionals in 1997.
Originality/value The TKCs are fundamentallystandards for implementation and open anopportunity
for discussion and are open for opportunity and examination. In theory and practice, each DC may
interpret and implement the TKCsdifferently. In this regard, there is value in gaining an appreciationof
pw DCs are interpreting the TKCs and applying them. It is business as usual at DCs; however, this
research has demonstratedthat there is no lack of innovation when it comes to DC in NSW implementing
the TKCs.
Keywords Justice, Treatment, Offenders, Risk, Community safety, Drug court
Paper type Conceptual paper
The inaugural sitting of the New South Wales (NSW) Drug Court (DC) took place at its
founding venue in Parramatta on 5 February 1999, some ten years after the first ever DC
came into being in Florida, USA. The intention was for the NSW court to adopt the USA
model (Murrel, 1999), who operate according to the ten key components (TKCs) (NADCP,
1997). The TKC provide guidance for developing DCs and offers measurable performance
benchmark for effective evaluating of those DCs that are already institutionalised into the
mainframe criminal justice system. The initial idea was to use the components as a
guideline. Currently, they are beingused to implement policies and as a way to measure the
effectiveness of DCs (Gavinand Kawałek, 2020).
The expression “business as usual” infers an absence of innovation. However, this has not
always been the case with DCs in NSW.It can be said that DC administrators have, through
Amanda Ann Clarke is
based at the Department of
Policing and Security,
Charles Sturt University,
Albury, Australia.
Received 25 December 2021
Revised 6 March 2022
Accepted 6 March 2022
DOI 10.1108/JCRPP-12-2021-0066 VOL. 8 NO. 4 2022, pp. 225-242, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, IS SN 2056-3841 jJOURNAL OF CRIMINOLOGICALRESEARCH, POLICY AND PRACTICE jPAGE 225
the years, applied inventive processes to ensure that the specialised jurisdiction is now
absorbed into the traditional NSW criminal justice system. Specifically, the DC of NSW
served as the model for DCs that followed, and these courts will serve asmodels for similar
jurisdictions to be established in the future. This being said, there is a strong need to
conduct research on the utilisation of the TKCs as a whole, to provide recommendations
and guidance to aid the establishmentand operation of future DCs in NSW.
Drug Court of New South Wales
NSW now has three DCs, which sit at Parramatta, Sydney and Toronto, respectively. On 17
June 2021, the NSW Government announced that a fourthvenue for the NSW DC will be set
up at Dubbo (Press Statement by Deputy Premier, NSW, 2021).While subject to some
refinement over the past 23years, the Drug Court Act 1998 (NSW), within which all DCs in
NSW operate, remains intact. The objectivesof the DC of NSW are:
to reduce the drug dependency of eligible persons;
to promote the reintegration of such drug-dependent persons into the community; and
to reduce the need for such drug-dependent persons to resort to criminal activity to
support their drug dependencies [s. 3, Drug Court Act 1998 (NSW)].
The operation of judicial management, drug testing and the administering of health
assistance to drug dependent offenders make up the unique and significant elements of a
DC (Bean, 2002, p. 235). These featuresare reflected in the TKC.
Ten key components
DCs have been a debated addition to the criminal justice system with critics reasoning that
there has been little guidancein the way of best practice (Lawrence and Freeman, 2002). In
1997, guidance in this regard was forthcoming when the National Association of Drug Court
Professionals [1] created the TKC.
The TKCs are the following:
DCs integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice system case
using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defence counsel promote public
safety while protecting participants’ due rights;
eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the drug court program
DCs provide access to a continuum of alcohol, drug and other related treatment and
rehabilitation services;
abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing;
a coordinated strategy governs DC responses to participants’ compliance;
ongoing judicial interaction with each DC participant is essential;
monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of programme goals and gauge
continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective DC planning, implementation
and operations; and
forging partnerships between DCs, public agencies and community-based
organisations generates local support that ensures DCP effectiveness (NADCP, 1997).

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