Brooklyn Treatment Court


In 1996, the Center for Court Innovation, in partnership with the New York State Unified Court System, opened New York City’s first drug treatment court. The Brooklyn Treatment Court links nonviolent, substance-abusing defendants to drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration. Participants return frequently to Court to report on their progress and submit regular urine tests. The judge helps to keep participants on track, rewarding progress and imposing sanctions on defendants who fail to comply with court orders.

To support defendants, the Court offers a range of social services on-site. A psychiatric nurse practitioner screens for mental health needs and makes appropriate referrals to outside services. A vocational/rehabilitation counselor helps graduates find jobs. In addition, defendants are required to complete a community service requirement, paying back the community they have harmed through their past criminal acts. Defendants who successfully complete treatment have their cases dismissed.

In April 2003, the demonstrated effectiveness of the Brooklyn Treatment Court led to its institutionalization by the New York State Unified Court System, which has assumed total administrative oversight of the program.

How It Works

Judge Jo Ann FerdinandJudge Jo Ann FerdinandThe Court's key features include:

Screening: Taking cases from all of Brooklyn, which has 2.5 million residents, the Treatment Court works with defendants facing felony drug charges whose cases have been screened by the District Attorney's Office.

Treatment Recommendation: With the help of a psycho-social assessment, case managers from the Treatment Court make a detailed treatment recommendation to the judge. The recommendation is based on the severity of the addiction, the defendant's community ties, criminal history and the level of criminal offense.

Close Monitoring: Defendants plead guilty with the promise that if they comply with the Court-mandated treatment, the Court will vacate the plea and dismiss the charges against them. Defendants who opt for treatment report back to the Court at regular intervals. At every appearance, urine is checked for drugs. The Court's advanced computer technology makes it easy to keep track of defendants at every step.

Sanctions and Rewards: Guided by the understanding that relapses are frequently part of the recovery process, the judge rewards or sanctions participants to teach them that their behavior has consequences. A reward could be applause in the courtroom or reduction in the frequency of Court appearances. Sanctions range from writing assignments to jail time.

Alumni Bureau: Many graduates join the Alumni Bureau, where they are encouraged to stay in touch with the Court, use the Court's social services, serve as a court volunteer and help spread the word about the Court to new clients.


Two separate evaluations—one performed by the Center for Court Innovation and one performed by the Urban Institute—found that the Brooklyn Treatment Court reduced of re-offending among participants. The Urban Institute study found that the Treatment Court reduced re-offending by 30 percent over a one-year period after intake (from 23 percent to 16 percent); and reduced self-reported heroin or crack/cocaine use by 67 percent (from 27 percent to 9 percent). Extending the measurement period to three years, the Center study found that the Treatment Court reduced re-offending by 27 percent (from 41 percent to 30 percent).


Partners include the Kings County District Attorney, Legal Aid Society, New York City Departments of Health and Correction, Brooklyn Hospital Center, Human Resources Administration, and over a hundred treatment providers and social service agencies. Funding has been provided by New York State Court System, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, the State Justice Institute, and the Fund for the City of New York.

Featured Research


Medication-Assisted Treatment in Drug Courts: Recommended Strategies

Medication-Assisted Treatment in Drug Courts: Recommended Strategies

By Sally Friedman and Kate Wagner-Goldstein

This report provides strategies for incorporating medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction into the work of drug courts. Although based on the experience of courts in New York State, the report’s recommendations are not state specific and can be applied to courts around the country. The report was produced by the Legal Action Center and the Center for Court Innovation, with support from the New York State court system.


The Future is Now: Enhancing Drug Court Operations Through Technology

The Future is Now: Enhancing Drug Court Operations Through Technology

By Annie Schachar, Aaron Arnold and Precious Benally

Technology offers justice systems new ways to link offenders to substance abuse treatment and other needed services. In addition, technology enhances the ability of justice systems to monitor offender compliance and provide staff with ongoing training and professional development. This paper explores the use of technology in drug courts and offers recommendations for drug court practitioners seeking to enhance their work with technology.


Michael Botticelli: Community Justice 2014

Michael Botticelli: Community Justice 2014

In his keynote address at Community Justice 2014, Michael Botticelli, acting director of The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, explains that he doesn't like the nickname "Drug Czar" because it connotes a militaristic "war on drugs" response to substance-use disorders. Botticelli, who has a background in public health and is in long-term recovery himself, feels that the problem of addiction is "fundamentally a public health issue" and that "you can't incarcerate addiction out of people.... We need to have a more compassionate and effective response."

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