ADDRESS OF THE HONORABLE JANET RENO
TO THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF
DRUG COURT PROFESSIONALS
999 9th Street, Northwest
Thursday, June 4, 1998
1 P R O C E E D I N G S
2 MS. RENO: Thank you so much and,
3 Senators, thank you. Thank you for your
4 friendship from the beginning; thank you for
5 your leadership. Ladies and gentlemen, for
6 people to come back year after year to care
7 as much as the senator cares, to constantly
8 be looking for new and better ways to do
9 things is an example of public service at its
10 best; at its real best. You're wonderful.
11 Lauri had told me that drug courts
12 were expanding. Other people said there
13 would be 2,000 people here, but you don't
14 know what it's like to think back to 1989 and
15 to walk in and see this. It's really
17 We started in Dade County and
18 there's another person who has, year in and
19 year out, listened to people try to "b.s."
20 him, try to con him. He knows when to give
21 them a pat on the back. He knows when to
22 talk to them with a figurative kick in the
1 backside. Happy birthday, Stanley. I love
2 you very much. It's his birthday.
3 Then, if anybody thinks that we'll
4 lose momentum, all they have to do is watch
5 Judge Jeff in action. I appreciate your
6 inviting me here today. I appreciate the
7 first time you came to visit me, and I just
8 appreciate more than I can tell you all that
9 you've done to ensure the enormous growth of
10 the drug court community and the vision and
11 the energy and the caring that you've brought
12 with it. Thank you.
13 Let's look at the numbers, Senator.
14 Two years ago when I spoke to you all here in
15 Washington, there were approximately 80 drug
16 courts in operation. Today, there are 275
17 with more than 150 in the planning stage.
18 Two years ago, there were only a
19 few juvenile drug courts. Today, there
20 are 44 juvenile drug courts and 6 family drug
21 courts with 58 more in the planning stages,
22 and this is an example of something we can
2 We can get the best of treatment,
3 working with others who care in comprehensive
4 community initiatives that begin to reweave
5 the fabric of community around our children
7 All the treatment specialists tell
8 me that treating a juvenile is one of the
9 most difficult things in the world, and I
10 know. About 12 years ago, I became the legal
11 guardian of 15 year old twins, a boy and a
12 girl. The girl was in love, and I've learned
13 an awful lot about raising adolescents. It
14 takes hard work, love, and an awful lot of
15 luck. One day, they are three. The next
16 day, they are 13. The next day, they are 30,
17 and some days they are all three wrapped into
18 one, and they don't know what they are.
19 They bounce around and they never,
20 ever hit rock bottom. But with all that we
21 have learned about drug treatment, surely we
22 can learn the best techniques for treating
1 juveniles, both drug-abusing juveniles and
2 alcohol-abusing juveniles. This should be
3 one of our great challenges for the remainder
4 of this century.
5 Two years ago, there were no drug
6 courts in tribal country. Today, there are
7 three operational Native American drug courts
8 and at least 20 more in the planning stages,
9 and they recognize how important it is to
10 focus on alcohol, as well.
11 When I came to Washington, I left
12 so many wonderful people in South Florida.
13 Among them were the Michasoochi Indians. I
14 came wondering how I would deal with my
15 responsibilities in the Department of Justice
16 with Indian tribes across this land.
17 I have been so heartened by their
18 strength, by their traditions, by their
19 culture, by their reference to sentencing
20 circles, but one of them standing up at
21 Harvard Law School and telling me, your
22 system just provides blame; it casts blame.
1 It says they are guilty; they are not guilty,
2 but you don't do anything about the cause of
3 the problem. You don't do anything to heal.
4 You don't do anything to bring peace. I
5 said, let's try drug courts.
6 We can make a difference in Indian
7 Country. It is the fastest growing juvenile
8 population in the country today. There are
9 so many wonderful traditions that we can help
10 maintain and restore if we focus, as well, on
11 Indian Country, and make sure that no
12 American is left out in the opportunity that
13 drug courts can give people for a new life.
14 The real beauty of drug courts is
15 that this common sense concept has emerged
16 because people like you use common sense, use
17 caring, and use an awful lot of hard work.
18 Drug courts are not a federal
19 initiative. They are not a Dade County
20 initiative. They are an initiative of every
21 single one of you in this room who, by
22 caring, has made the difference.
1 Yes, the senator's right. Thanks
2 to him, and nobody else, we have seen a large
3 increase in federal support. Two years ago
4 when I spoke to you, we did not know what the
5 final appropriation for the Drug Court Grant
6 Program would be. It turned out to be $15
7 million in 1996.
8 Today, the appropriation for the
9 grant program has doubled to $30 million.
10 With that appropriation, we have been able to
11 support more local initiatives through direct
12 program support and through more technical
13 assistance and training. In fiscal year '98,
14 the Office of Justice Programs awarded 80
15 planning grants, 80 implementation grants, 20
16 enhancement grants, and 3 cooperative agreements
17 to provide technical assistance and training
18 to the field.
19 There are now operational drug
20 courts in 42 states, Puerto Rico, and the
21 District of Columbia with drug courts being
22 planned in six more states.
1 Two years ago, we had some
2 evaluation that told Stanley and myself that
3 Dade County could work better. Today, there
4 are new positive evaluations being reported
5 on drug courts all over the country. Just
6 recently, the Portland, Oregon Drug Court
7 released an evaluation with very positive
8 results. The evaluation showed that program
9 graduates had 76 percent fewer total
10 subsequent arrests than the comparison group
11 over a two-year period.
12 This is really good news, and it's
13 an example again, if we do it right, if we
14 build it the right way, it's going to work.
15 But it's going to be based on common sense
16 and caring. This year, the National
17 Institute of Justice awarded grants to study
18 and evaluate four of the oldest drug courts
19 and will very soon award another grant to
20 begin another national evaluation of 14 drug
22 Something has happened in this
1 nation and the Senator's right, there is a
2 political quality to our drug debate. But in
3 so many instances across this country, if I
4 walk into a community, I'll find a Democratic
5 United States attorney, a Republican district
6 attorney, a Republican mayor, a Democratic
7 senator, police chiefs who are non-partisan,
8 and all in it looking at what works, what
9 doesn't work.
10 They have forgotten political
11 partisan labels to anything, and they are
12 just getting the job done in their community.
13 They are aided and abetted by
14 having sound, scientific research done on
15 what works and what doesn't work, not
16 research that gets out to them five years
17 later when it's pass and obsolete and of no
18 use, but current research that can be used to
19 go to a county commission, to go to the state
20 legislature and to go to senators and
21 congressmen and say, this works; look at the
22 return we can get on our dollars.
1 I think the American people want to
2 believe with all their heart that
3 treatment works. I think that almost every
4 American I know has a friend, a family
5 member, a neighbor, a co-worker who is
6 recovering. We have got to get that message
7 to every political forum in the world in
8 scientific terms that can convince people and
9 anecdotes that can convince people and
10 real-life examples that can convince.
11 But we've got to be careful. The
12 worst thing we can do is spread ourselves too
14 The judge and I would occasionally
15 try to do that, and there'd be one person
16 that's saying, no, I'm not going to do it.
17 We'd get serious and I'd come upstairs and
18 I'd think about it and scratch my head and
19 I'd say, yes, May was right; we can't spread
20 ourselves too thin. We have got to make sure
21 that drug courts do not become the dumping
22 ground of court systems that are absolutely
1 overwhelmed. It is not a good investment of
2 our dollars.
3 If we invest wisely, if we build
4 carefully, we can make a tremendous
5 difference. We want to continue to ensure
6 that drug courts meet the needs of each and
7 every person that comes into the program. So
8 very important is the impact that drug courts
9 have had on families and in communities.
10 Sixty-four percent of drug court participants
11 are parents of minor children.
12 More than 2,400 parents regained
13 custody of their children as a result of
14 their successful participation in the drug
15 court program.
16 It is so wonderful to know that all
17 of these children are benefiting from having
18 drug-free parents and from the new-life
19 skills their parents are learning through
20 substance abuse treatment. But I still
21 detect something that I saw in Miami again
22 and again; a lady knew she had a problem, but
1 she was terrified that if she went into
2 treatment, she would lose her children and
3 she could never get them back again.
4 One of the most rewarding things
5 I've witnessed in the five years I've been
6 Attorney General is to visit a prison in
7 Upstate New York, walk into the prison cell,
8 bed here, bed here, bassinet here, bassinet
9 here, walk into one of the nicest nurseries
10 that I have seen with child development
12 Let us be creative and think about
13 what we can do to let parents know that they
14 don't have to lose their children, that they
15 can learn together to be better parents, and
16 that we can maintain the family through the
17 drug court program in ever increasing
19 It's important because there have
20 been more than 525 drug-free babies born to
21 drug court participants. This statistic is
22 not only important to the families who have
1 the healthy baby, but it's important to the
2 community if we're ever going to do anything
3 that will provide a lasting solution to
5 You've got so many wonderful,
6 wonderful reasons to be so proud of what
7 you're doing. I am so proud of you.
8 The carrot and stick approach, the
9 effective use of the coercive car of the
10 system coupled with treatment, coupled with
11 encouragement, coupled with that pat on the
12 back is being used as a model for other types
13 of courts; for domestic violence courts, gun
14 courts, and others.
15 All over the country, we're seeing
16 a tremendous growing interest in community
17 courts, courts that are problem-solvers that
18 use the problem-solving approach that look at
19 the whole person, look at the whole community
20 and deal with the underlying problems that
21 cause the crime in the first place; courts
22 that involve members of the community in
1 identifying problems and priorities that
2 bring together a community police officer
3 who's dedicated and caring and a community
4 probation officer to work together as a team.
5 We can make such a difference if we
6 remember that public specialists can be a key
7 member of the team, along with other social
8 service agencies that have so much to offer.
9 Everybody says, but we don't have money.
10 We're delivering services, though. Let
11 us take the services we deliver and let us
12 make sure we coordinate them in the wisest
13 way possible to avoid fragmentation, to get
14 the best return on our dollar. It's
16 You, in the drug courts community,
17 were the first to be bold enough to rethink
18 traditional roles, reaching outside the walls
19 of the adversarial process to work together
20 to solve the problems of substance abuse and
21 crime. It's becoming a part of the other
22 courts' ways of doing business, rather than
1 just some new idea of a few.
2 When we consider that more than 70
3 percent of the offenders in most court
4 systems have drug or alcohol problems, it
5 just makes good sense to take the drug court
6 approach to managing these offenders and
7 reallocating court and treatment resources to
8 solve these addiction problems.
9 Now, Senator, I don't often like to
10 disagree with you, but I am anyway. If we
11 use the common sense approach, if we remember
12 that we're focusing on non-violent
13 first-offenders in some categories and
14 juveniles in others, there are a whole lot of
15 people in our prisons that have substantial
16 drug abuse problems that are not getting
17 treated, or if they are getting treated, they
18 are taken from the prison, dumped back into
19 the apartment over the open-air drug market
20 where they got into trouble in the first
21 place. Guess what's happening?
22 Now one of the most expensive parts
1 of drug treatment often is that facility
2 where you can treat them. We've got some
3 ready-made facilities.
4 We've got some opportunities with
5 people who are in for three years or five
6 years to develop the same approach coming
7 out, the same carrot and stick approach that
8 says, you want to work with us in terms of
9 job training in the prison; you want to work
10 with us in terms of returning to the
11 community, you're going to be under the
12 supervision of a judge who makes a difference
13 and who can pop you in or pop you out,
14 depending on how you want to work with the
16 We can do so much if we use the
17 resources that we have. Ladies and
18 gentlemen, if we're going to develop sound
19 solutions to the drug problem, we are going
20 to have to recognize that the key to the
21 solution is aftercare, aftercare that is
22 supervised by a judge who cares and knows
1 when to impose sanctions and when to give the
2 good pat on the back.
3 I have been Attorney General for a
4 little over five years. I have had an
5 opportunity to visit so many communities
6 across this nation. Never have I believed so
7 deeply in the American people's resiliency,
8 strength, and ability to solve problems.
9 I can remember in 1983 as the crack
11 epidemic hit Miami, I thought, whoa. I felt
12 like I had been kicked in the stomach. You
13 try so hard and then there is a new
14 adversity. What do you do about it?
15 You remember that in 1989 a couple
16 of people got together to form a drug court,
17 and then you look at today. You look at 1989
18 and the crime rate in this nation, and you
19 look today at the crime rate down six years
20 in a row.
21 There is no one particular reason for it,
1 but there is one overall reason; people like you
2 who care, who are willing to put common sense
3 tools to work and who, ladies and gentlemen,
4 have proven in the last 10 years can make
5 a tremendous, wonderful difference for this
6 country. Thank you for all that you do.
7 (Whereupon, at 2:00 p.m., the
8 PROCEEDINGS were adjourned.)
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