Program Type: DUI/Drug Court
Program Location: Texas
Lead Agency: Harris County Criminal Courts at Law/Office of Court Management: Judge Diane Bull, Judge Robin Brown, and Judge Natalie Fleming
Partners:

Treatment providers, recovery healthcare services, ignition interlock agencies, Sam Houston University Criminal Justice Department, Harris County District Attorney’s Office, DWI Court defense attorneys, Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department

The Issue: Prevention
Recidivism
Program Target Population: Hardcore Offenders

Program Description:

The program seeks to address the underlying factors that cause DWI offenders to repeatedly drink and drive. The program works to reduce recidivism, increase abstinence during program participation and lead to recovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction. A key component of the program is individualized treatment plans that are less intrusive and restrictive. DWI offenders who qualify (in jurisdiction of DWI Court and repeat DWI offender, high BAC offender or assessment indicates high risk) for the program are assessed early for risk and needs. Treatment services available to participants include education, outpatient substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment and support groups. Participants are placed in the program and are monitored for compliance using tools such as urinalyses and secure continuous alcohol monitor (SCRAM) technology. The devices are not the focus of the program, but allow staff to adjust treatment plans if/when needed. Some of the tools can be used as sanctions that the court could place on noncompliant participants who need more intensive supervision. The Saving Ourselves by Education and Recovery (SOBER) DWI Court follows the Ten Guiding Principles for best practices within DWI courts as established by the National Center for DWI Courts.

Participants in the program go through various phases as they meet appropriate metrics set up in each phase.

PHASE I

The minimum requirements for successful completion of Phase One:

  • Participate for three months
  • Attend ninety (90) 12-Step meetings in ninety (90) days
  • Appear bimonthly before the SOBER Court Judge
  • Periodic office visits with the SOBER Court Case Manager
  • Random field visits, by the SOBER Court Case Manager, and/or law enforcement agent
  • Seek and obtain full time employment, or a combination of work and school
  • Submit to a substance abuse evaluation, as directed by the Court
  • Obtain a sober sponsor, of the same sex, with at least five years of sobriety
    • Sponsor must attend one SOBER Court Review hearing before completion of Phase One OR write a letter of support to the SOBER Court Team.
  • Begin and continuously participate in the DWI Repeat Offender Program until completion
  • Blow daily into a Court-approved alcohol detection device, as directed by the Court
  • Random drug and alcohol tests, as directed by the Court
  • Apply to the SOBER Court Team for phase advancement

PHASE II

The minimum requirements for successful completion of Phase Two:

  • Participate for three months
  • Begin and continuously participate in substance abuse treatment, including group and individual counseling, until completion, as directed by the Court
  • Attend no less than two 12-Step meetings per week
  • Appear bimonthly before the SOBER Court Judge
  • Periodic office visits with the SOBER Court Case Manager
  • Random field visits, by the SOBER Court Case Manager, and/or law enforcement agent
  • Blow daily into a Court-approved alcohol detection device, as directed by the Court
  • Must seek and obtain full time employment or combination of work and school
  • Maintain weekly contact with a sober sponsor
    • Sponsor must attend one SOBER Court Review hearing before completion of Phase Two OR write a letter of support to the SOBER Court Team.
  • Random drug and alcohol tests, as directed by the Court
  • Apply to the SOBER Court Team for phase advancement
  • Be current with all SOBER Court fees and court costs

PHASE III

The minimum requirements for successful completion of Phase Three:

  • Participate for six months
  • Successfully complete court-ordered treatment program and aftercare
  • Begin and successfully complete the Court-ordered cognitive education program
  • Attend no less than two 12-Step meetings per week
  • Appear before the SOBER Court Judge once a month
  • Periodic office visits with the SOBER Court Case Manager
  • Random field visits, by the SOBER Court Case Manager, and/or law enforcement agent
  • Must seek and obtain full time employment or combination of work and school
  • Blow daily into a Court-approved alcohol detection device, as directed by the Court
  • Random drug and alcohol tests, as directed by the Court
  • Maintain weekly contact with a sober sponsor
    • Sponsor must attend one SOBER Court Review hearing before completion of Phase Three OR write a letter of support to the SOBER Court Team.
  • Be current with all SOBER Court fees and court costs
  • Apply to the SOBER Court Team for phase advancement

PHASE IV

The minimum requirements for successful completion of Phase Four:

  • Up to 12 months participation
  • Complete all court-ordered programs, treatment and aftercare, as directed by the Court
  • At least one (1) meeting a month with the SOBER Court Liaison Officer
  • Appear before the SOBER Court Judge once a month
  • Attend no less than two 12-Step meetings per week
  • Maintain full time employment (or combination of work and school)
  • Random drug / alcohol tests, as directed by the Court
  • Be current with all SOBER Court fees, fines and court costs
  • Maintain weekly contact with a sober sponsor
    • Sponsor must attend one SOBER Court Review hearing before completion of Phase Four OR write a letter of support to the SOBER Court Team.
  • Application for graduation must be approved by SOBER Court Team before graduation. Participant must have achieved an understanding of the personal problems of addiction, criminal behavior, and relapse prevention.

All partners of the program work together as a team to give participants the best chance of success. As the judges involved in the program are presented with cases, they use an established grid of sanctions and incentives so they can apply phase appropriate sanctions or rewards for program participants. The courts use recommendations from program managers and impose appropriate sanctions or rewards for participants based on judicial requirements and input from the partners involved in the case.

Program Effectiveness:

The program’s effectiveness has been enhanced by dedicated staff members who have been committed to carrying out the program’s goals and have been active in seeking out alternative and additional resources to help the program participants. The program is being evaluated by the Sam Houston State University Department of Criminal Justice and results will be available in the spring of 2012.

Program Cost Effectiveness:

When the SOBER DWI Court began in 2008, the county courts partnered with the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department (HCCSCD).  HCCSCD provided the case managers, who were paired with the various Judges.  The program has recently decreased from 10 courts participating in the program to three courts. In reviewing the resources for treatment, etc., the Office of Court Management concluded there were not sufficient resources for 10 courts to provide effective and equal services to their clients. This realization led to the decision to decrease the number of SOBER DWI courts to three. 

Sources of Funding:

  • Offenders’ fees
  • Local/state funding/grants
  • Using or redirecting existing financial and/or staff resources

 Factors to Consider When Replicating the Program:

  • Obtaining enough funding
  • Partnering with law enforcement at the city and county levels
  • Securing the resources to ensure adequate drug testing for program participants
  • Training of staff on an ongoing basis
  • Dealing with legal issues surrounding the roles of lawyers in the program
  • Effectively cooperating with other agencies (partners) to ensure the treatment of program participants
  • Maintaining consistency among different DWI court teams in a jurisdiction

For more information on this program, please contact:

Ed Wells
713-755-5394
Ed_Wells@ccl.hctx.net

Raymie Hairell-Sweat
HCCSCD/Special Programs
Drug Court/DWI Court
DIVERT  DWI Pre Trial Program
713-755-4523
raymie.hairell-sweat@csc.hctx.net