Sustaining Drug Courts in Arizona and South Carolina: An Experience in Hodgepodge Budgeting*

By Douglas, James W.; Hartley, Roger E. | Justice System Journal, January 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Sustaining Drug Courts in Arizona and South Carolina: An Experience in Hodgepodge Budgeting*


Douglas, James W., Hartley, Roger E., Justice System Journal


Aquiring resources sufficient to carry out the constitutional and statutory functions of the judicial branch of government has long been an area of concern for state and local courts (see Baar, 1975; Tobin, 1999). judicial advocates have complained that the judiciary is often neglected when resources are distributed by executive and legislative officials (ABA Division for Public Education, 1999; American Bar Association, 1997; Wolfson, 1994). The problem of obtaining adequate resources is compounded when the courts seek funding above their baseline to initiate institutional reforms. Doing so asks elected officials to divert resources away from programs that are likely to yield greater political returns for them. Such funding is difficult to obtain, especially during times of fiscal stress. As a result, many court reforms of the past have failed to gain the long-term financial support they needed to survive (Feeley, 1983).

Given the importance of funding to reform success, it is unfortunate that little is known about how the judiciary goes about financing the implementation of its reform efforts. Our study attempts to shed light on this topic by examining how drug courts are initially funded at the local level and how they behave in the game of budget politics to maintain themselves over time. We begin this project with an inductive examination of drug courts using elite interviews of individuals who were instrumental in adopting and implementing drug courts in Arizona and South Carolina. We asked how drug courts were funded initially, how officials planned for resources over time, and how funding sources changed. Our findings suggest that drug courts engage in a "hodgepodge" budgeting strategy that seeks and secures resources from a variety of sources. We close by considering the administrative and managerial implications of our findings.

THE DRUG COURT REFORM

Drug courts are specialized courts that provide an intermediate sentence for substance abusers that involves a combination of drug treatment, screening for drugs, and a reward/punishment system for those who enter the program. The focus is on the needs of the individual offender (Nolan, 2001). The crime is treated as a "pathology" that necessitates treatment, and, in this respect, drug courts are therapeutic reforms. Drug courts are a major change from traditional court practices. They are less adversarial and provide a more active and intensive role for the judge. Drug courts were sold by their proponents as combining the benefits of treatment with broader efficiency for courts (Belenko, 2001; lnciardi, McBride, and Rivers, 1996). As they treat and monitor drug offenders, the promise is that there will be fewer recidivists, more prison space, and an efficient method for diverting drug cases from traditional courts. By the year 2001, over 1,000 drug courts in America were in operation or in the planning stages (Belenko, 2001).

There has been a limited but growing literature on the funding of courts in general (see Baar, 1975; Douglas, 2002; Douglas and Hartley, 2001, 2003), but there has been little attention to the funding of court reforms. Previous studies of drug courts provided some information regarding funding sources for the courts. These studies found that drug courts obtain resources from a variety of federal, state, local, and private sources, including federal and state grants, state and local appropriations, state agency funds, court fines and fees, participant fees, Medicaid, third-party insurance, and private donations (Martin, 2002; Nolan, 2001; Cooper, 1997; OJP, 1997). By and large, the drug courts examined in these studies were established with temporary funding, primarily from grants, which ran out after a short period.

While we do know a little about the funding sources of drug courts, no study has examined how drug courts maintain their budgets over time. This is important because while the existing sources are enlightening, they do not provide a comprehensive examination of how funding structures may change.

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Sustaining Drug Courts in Arizona and South Carolina: An Experience in Hodgepodge Budgeting*
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