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What is the best part of going to drug court?

Brooklyn

Among Brooklyn participants, appreciation for the opportunity, satisfaction with doing well, and feeling proud of accomplishments seemed to be among the most attractive features of going to court:

  • That you know you’re walking out.

  • At least I know when I come here, I ain’t got no worry. It don’t make no difference how many times they want me to come. . . . If I was upstate, I wouldn’t be goin’ nowhere but to the yard.

  • The best part for me was I graduated. I got my certificate at the same time, so when I got up there and got that certificate, I said, “Yes! I did it. I am so proud of myself!”

  • The best part? . . . We all got together when we had to come in ’cause we had a train pass, and the best part was when we walked into the courtroom. We shined, everybody dressed to their “T’s”—the best we had. And the judge knew. It gave us a sense of being somebody. . . . Each time it got a little better from the first time I went. I would shine a little more.

  • I shouldn’t even be sittin’ here for what I done did or got caught doin’. I mean, any other courtroom, I wouldn’t see daylight for a good long time. I kiss the ground I walk on now.

Las Vegas

When asked to describe the best part of going to drug court, Las Vegas participants almost unanimously referred to various forms of encouragement, signs that they were doing well:

  • Walking out the doors instead of being in handcuffs.

  • When the judge give you a compliment instead of calling you a drug addict.

  • I think it motivates you and keeping you doing the right thing when he says, “Good job.”

  • You know, it’s some people have never had a dirty UA. You know, I be clapping my hands for them myself. You know it ain’t easy . . . like, “Hey, congratulations, that was good.”

  • You need a pat on the back. . . .

  • Times when I think I’m in trouble and everything’s good, I walk out smiling and stop shaking.

  • They want gratitude instead of attitude. . . .

Perhaps the most positive part of drug court for many was graduating.

  • Graduations are good.

  • When you graduate and they give you a tee shirt. . . .

  • Finally treat you like a human being and tell you he’s proud to shake your hand. Even shake your hand when you graduate.

Many of the participants reported that they gained a great deal from sitting in court and watching others go before the judge:

  • You learn from other people.

  • A way to learn.

Miami

Similar sentiments were echoed among Miami focus group participants:

  • Being able to walk back out.

  • Coming out the door. You don’t come out the door, you’re dirty.

  • Goin’ in you got nothing to worry about—you just getting your next court date, really.

  • The best part for me is to come up and get my next court date, that let me know I be already taken care of. You get your court date, you walk out, that mean you clean. When he talk to you and says you have a problem, then you messin’ up.

  • I wouldn’t say it like that. Sometimes I get high and I’m praying God for me to stop getting high. The best part for me is I should get to that drug court and get treatment again. To give you a chance to stay clean, to get back to regular life, like normal human beings. This man is giving me a chance to live again.

  • My best part is people graduating—yeah, that’s the best part. One day I’m gonna get there. . . . [Everybody claps.]

San Bernardino

Comments about the best part of the courtroom experience in the San Bernardino groups centered on receiving encouragement and approval from the judge:

  • When he pats you on the back.

  • When he tells you to go home.

  • When he tells you you’re doing good. You got a job and all that stuff. It makes you feel great.

  • When he’s done with you, that’s the best part.

  • Best part is watching him smile. . . . When you get it from the judge, that’s different.

  • Knowing that I’m not going into the “box.”

Seattle

The same sentiment—the prospect of being successful—seemed a major theme in the comments of Seattle participants:

  • I want to be one of those people who get up there and graduate. I want to be them. It’s a cool feeling, you know what I’m saying.

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An Honest Chance: Perspectives on Drug Courts April 2002