What kinds of rewards and sanctions have you experienced
in drug court?
Brooklyn participants talked about their experiences with the 90-day
reward, when the participants name is highlighted on the court monitor
after completing the first 90 days successfully:
- The 90-day reward . . . its that first reward . . . it feels
- I never had my name flashed up there . . . and Im doin
everything Im supposed to be doin.
The jury box was a commonly experienced sanction:
- Jury box. Thats a sanction! She makes you sit a whole day in
the jury box.
- She makes you sit there all day and listen to the cases.
Some participants discussed the sanction of repeating a treatment phase
after testing dirty or failing to attend treatment:
- Not moving in phases. If you are in that third month and you do something
wrong, you start over at the first month. You keep the same phase but
start over from the beginning. Do the 2 months over again. Man.
A good number of participants were assigned community service and had
mixed views of the experience:
- Thats a punishment cause its like the work . . .
whatever you did that bad . . . you got to pay for that too, still, and
give back for what you done out there with the community service.
- Its not a punishment to me. I went back to the neighborhood where
I was messing up for community service. I was tearing the neighborhood
up . . . but I went back there and I gave back to the community by helping.
- I got involved with an outreach program, which I never knew anything
about and I felt good that they were in my life. I would give them some of my time because
theyre doing some very useful things.
- At first it was like, I don mind but then we got here and they
had us doing things like, uh, I didnt like it. . . . Not only that I get up too early on the
weekdays. . . . I didnt see the purpose.
- Im already giving it back. No, I didnt feel it was some
sort of punishment. It was a part of a condition . . . but I didnt
see the need for that.
- It was all right. . . . I liked it. . . . I just didnt get anything
out of it.
- I really didnt approve of the community service. Cause
we went out to do some community service and . . . so we get out there
and paint five houses and the people on the block ask if we can paint
their house too. Then there was two more houses. It wasnt community
service no more. Another thing was that we was doing community service
but not in our own communities.
- I wouldnt feel bad about cleaning up my own community.
- I didnt like itthey wanted me to clean up somebodys
backyardI didnt mind it.
- I was working for the church. I had fun.
- They had us doin one that was cleaning the roof and cleanin
the basement and they had guys cleanin out the sewer. But we all
did it. I wanted to do it all at one time though. I didnt want to
do it every weekend.
Las Vegas participants spoke of sanctions for failing to attend treatment,
dirty urines, not coming to court, and not paying treatment fees. The
sanctions they described included being sent back to an earlier treatment
phase, being admonished in court, and being sent to jail:
- He yells at you.
- The main thing was he made me feel like an a** most of the time. .
. . When I graduated I owed like 1,700 bucks. Im working it off.
He gets irate. And if he gets irate before he gets to your case, hes
going to be really irate when he gets there and you havent done
what you are supposed.
- It doesnt even matter because of extenuating circumstances. The
fact of not having his money for court, like being evicted because my
husband screwed up and went to jail and I did not even have the money
for my rent, let alone for him, and I wasnt even clean. It didnt
matter. I did not have his money. He had me in cuffs and ready to go.
Im not buying that excuse, he says. Finally, he lets me go.
- I was just sanctioned like 2 weeks ago for the first time since Ive
been in the program and you just kind of go through a rebellious thing.
You get a little bit angry, yeah, and you sort of may think you can just
do it anyway. So he lets you do it anyway and see what happens. . . .
Youre just going to go to jail again. . . . Makes you think. Makes
you realize why hes putting you in jail.
- You know like if youre $5 short, he throw you in jail for 3 days.
. . . Like what did that accomplish? You know you wasnt working,
you got no money. So you go to jail for 4 days. Now what? Youre
going to get money when you come out.
- Just be honest with the guy. You know hell give you a chance.
- I mean, like its I can be doing well, you know, if you missed
payment, she seems to be really hot on payment. . . . You know youre
going to get spanked or she never helps you out or shell never give
you a break. She never lets you slide.
San Bernardino participants emphasized a mix of rewards and sanctions.
Rewards included formal and informal recognition for good progress in
- He gives you a certificate for every different phase you get in and
then various lengths of clean time, he gives you a certificate too.
- Thats important, cause you know you did something good.
- One thing is he gets up off his chair and puts his hand out to you.
Hell shake your hand.
Not many judges would do that.
- Handshakes. Pat on the back.
- Dismiss all your charges. So you can clean your slate and start all
- I was doing good and was allowed to go to Florida for a week to see
my son compete in gymnastics.
- A lot of people had their license suspended for like 6 months when
they got arrested. Hes making it where youre able to get your
license back. . . . You need your license to drive so thats like
a big deal right there.
Sanctions included being admonished, being placed on more intensive treatment,
and drug testing, as well as going to jail:
- Hell chastise you right in front of everybody.
- They put you in the box.
- If you get in trouble, you can get community service for 8 hours or
hell give you 30 and 30, which means 30 drug tests on 30 days.
- If you miss the tests, its the same as being dirty and you go
to jail. Then its back to 30 and 30.
- I came in with alcohol and he sent me to Cedar House for 7 days. But
I liked it. It gave me a chance to dry out. . . . Its to open your
eyes and let you know this is not a joke, that I mean business, even if
it takes goin to the box.
- If you have continuous relapses, he put you in an in-house rehab program
and after you get done with that its an option to come back here,
then if you do it a second time, hell send you to jail.
- A weekend in jail. To them its 5 days, not just Saturday and
Participants discussed one particular Seattle reward in a favorable light:
the express card, which permitted accelerated processing in
- The express card. Its like if youre doing good, like your
urines are clean, youre going to all your groupsthen you get
an express and youre up there [in court] right away. In and out.
- It means youre doing good. If youre not on the express
and youre waiting in court all day, youre usually the last
one to be called up. . . . You know thats not good.
- She gave me, I had to write an essay on following through with responsibility
and Ill tell you that I did not forget to call in again. . . . Essays
are cool but I just didnt like the fact that I screwed up.
- The first time I had to sit in the jury box 1 day. . . . My second
sanction I had to sit in the jury box 3 whole days.
- Another sanction, they made me do a few extra NA meetings and group
- I had to go to jail. First the jury box, 1 day. Then I went to jail
for 1 day. Then I went for
2 the second time for a sanction.
Back to Court Responses
Chance: Perspectives on Drug Courts