Reinventing Justice: The American Drug Court Movement

Princeton University Press

Drug courts offer radically new ways to deal with the legal and social problems presented by repeat drug offenders, often dismissing criminal charges as an incentive for participation in therapeutic programs. Since the first drug court opened in 1989 in Florida, close to 600 have been established throughout the United States. Although some observers have questioned their efficacy, no one until now has constructed an overall picture of the drug court phenomenon and its place in an American history of the social control of drugs. Here James Nolan examines not only how therapeutic strategies deviate from traditional judiciary proceedings, but also how these differences reflect changes afoot in American culture and conceptions of justice.

Nolan draws upon extensive fieldwork to analyze a new type of courtroom drama in which the judge engages directly and regularly with the defendant-turned-client, lawyers play a reduced and less adversarial role, and treatment providers exert unprecedented influence in determining judicially imposed sanctions. The author considers the intended as well as unexpected consequences of therapeutic jurisprudence: for example, behavior undergoes a pathological reinterpretation, guilt is discredited, and the client's life story and ability to convince the judge of his or her willingness to change take on a new importance. Nolan finds that, fueled in part by the strength of therapeutic sensibilities in American culture, the drug court movement continues to expand and advances with it new understandings of the meaning and practice of justice.

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Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 10, 2009
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Pages
264
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ISBN
9781400824762
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Drug courts offer offenders an intensive court-based treatment program as an alternative to the normal adjudication process. Begun in 1989, they have since spread dramatically throughout the United States. In this interdisciplinary examination of the expanding movement, a distinguished panel of legal practitioners and academics offers theoretical assessments and on-site empirical analyses of the workings of various courts in the United States, along with detailed comparisons and contrasts with related developments in Britain. Practitioners, politicians, and academics alike acknowledge the profound impact drug courts have had on the American criminal justice system. From a range of disciplinary perspectives, contributors to this volume seek to make sense of this important judicial innovation. While addressing a range of questions, Drug Courts also aims to achieve a careful balance between focused empirical studies and broader theoretical analyses of the same phenomenon. The volume maintains an analytical concentration on drug courts and on the important practical, philosophical, and jurisprudential consequences of this unique form of therapeutic jurisprudence. Drug courts depart from the practices and procedures of typical criminal courts. Prosecutors and defense counsel play much-reduced roles. Often lawyers are not even present during regular drug court sessions. Instead, the main courtroom drama is between the judge and client, both of whom speak openly and freely in the drug court setting. Often accompanying the client is a treatment provider who advises the judge and reviews the client's progress in treatment. Court sessions are characterized by expressive and sometimes tearful testimonies about the recovery process, and are often punctuated with applause from those in attendance. Taken together, the chapters provide a variety of perspectives on drug courts, and extend our knowledge of the birth and evolution of a new movement. Drug Courts is an essential reference for courses in criminology, the sociology of drugs and deviance, and the philosophy of law and punishment.
A wide variety of problem-solving courts have been developed in the United States over the past two decades and are now being adopted in countries around the world. These innovative courts--including drug courts, community courts, domestic violence courts, and mental health courts--do not simply adjudicate offenders. Rather, they attempt to solve the problems underlying such criminal behaviors as petty theft, prostitution, and drug offenses. Legal Accents, Legal Borrowing is a study of the international problem-solving court movement and the first comparative analysis of the development of these courts in the United States and the other countries where the movement is most advanced: England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and Australia. Looking at the various ways in which problem-solving courts have been taken up in these countries, James Nolan finds that while importers often see themselves as adapting the American courts to suit local conditions, they may actually be taking in more aspects of American law and culture than they realize or desire. In the countries that adopt them, problem-solving courts may in fact fundamentally challenge traditional ideas about justice. Based on ethnographic research in all six countries, the book examines these cases of legal borrowing for what they reveal about legal and cultural differences, the inextricable tie between law and culture, the processes of globalization, the unique but contested global role of the United States, and the changing face of law and justice around the world.
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