How seriously do your peers take drug court?
Brooklyn participants were asked to assess how many of their peers did
not take the program seriously, at least at first, or were just trying
to get over.
They were asked how many people were likely to get through the entire
program not taking it seriously or faking it. Opinions differed:
- All of us.
- Yes. [Unanimous.] At first.
- Thats why I was here . . . just to get the 12 months over
. . . just here to do my time.
- A few.
- Four out of ten.
- It might start out that way. But you cant get all the way
Las Vegas focus group participants noted that many people who enter the
drug court program do not take it seriously at first, because their motivation
is to avoid a conviction rather than to address a drug problem. When asked,
focus group participants estimated that from 50 to 70 percent of persons
in the drug court start out with the attitude of trying to get over
on the program or just wanting to get through it:
- A lot of them are not dedicated, taking it serious, focusing.
- A lot of them are trying to trick, you know, the process . . . by
being able to go in there to urinate by themselves or whatever, or sort
of to speak by themselves and have another alternative for it.
- [But] the ones that have been tricking the process all of a sudden
are like, Oh, man, Im dirty. . . . They are coming
up dirty, so you know.
Several Las Vegas participants also noted that defendants attitudes
often change during the treatment process and that few make it as far
as graduation trying to fake their way through the program:
- But you know what, as long as Ive been in this program, I
seen people change their attitudes. It started out like that. . . .
Well even if they havent gotten in trouble, Ive seen people
change their attitudes, like its not worth it, this really is
for my better.
Miami focus group participants voiced similar sentiments regarding the
motivation of their peers, believing that a good number of participants
started drug court thinking they would just get by, avoid jail, and get
it over with:
- I think that after they go back to jail couple of times, then they
get serious about it. At the beginning they not really serious about
- A couple a people [are trying to fake it] because . . . you can
tell by what all the people say, and what phase you are in now. I know
[if] me and her got here together and Im going to Phase III, and
shes still in I or II, then shes not too serious. . . .
You know, you can tell by what phase youre in.
- In order to get by, you gotta be clean, right? To get by, you gotta
get clean, dont you? So, what does it matter? Who they foolin?
- A majority [try to get by] . . . at first. Definitely.
- Less than half take it serious. I know a lot of people just go to
get out of the program. Its differentafter you finish with
the program, what you gonna do with your life? Its absolute serious.
For a year you have to . . . work at it. Make your mind up . . . grow
But the skeptical view was not unanimous:
- The people in our group all take it very seriously.
Portland participants offered widely ranging views regarding the percentage
of their peers who were trying to get by or beat the
system. Estimates among participants ranged from 50 to 80 percent
of participants trying to get by to an estimate of 85 percent of participants
trying to make it. Again, several agreed that most participants begin
by not taking the program seriously, but that many change their minds
- But you know, what Ive noticed is that the people that were
faking it didnt last.
All agreed that success in the program depended upon an individuals
desire to stay clean, and that it was impossible for a participant to
fake it through the entire program. Sooner or later, the program
catches up with you.
- Nobody. You cant fake it. You are not going to fake it through
the whole thing.
Among San Bernardino participants there was a clear, shared view that
trying to get through the drug court treatment program by faking
it would not succeed:
- You can see right through them.
- Theres no way you can fake this program.
When asked why, they pointed to drug testing:
- Because the way they test you. They know.
One participant pointed out, however, that:
- They dont test very well for alcohol. Its harder for
them to test.
Among Seattle participants, the same themes were heard. There was general
agreement that many people might not take the program seriously at the
beginning, but that it was rare that individuals would really succeed
by faking it all the way through:
- They may start that way but they wont end up that way.
- Seems like everyone starts off thinking they can beat this some
kind of way, well mostly everybody. But the further you get into the
program, that all changes. But when you first start, I just didnt
want to go to the penitentiary. I didnt care about the rest.
- About 70 percent are trying to fake it. At least to start, when
they first start.
- Oh its hard to fake it all the way through. [General consensus.]
Seattle participants seemed to convey disappointment in individuals who
tried to beat the program rather than to work hard to succeed:
- I know of two individuals . . . there is two people . . . I be there
on the day they graduated.
- They did a damn good job of faking it all the way through, graduated
and theyre downtown selling dope.
- I met up with one of my friends who started when I did. She was
still relapsing and I dont know, I feel kinda sorry for her .
. . but shes not taking it serious and I am taking it serious.
And its kinda like I dont want to hang out with her . .
. cause if Im around her, Ill use.
- Theres an old saying in AA: fake it until you make it.
Back to Commitment to Treatment
Chance: Perspectives on Drug Courts