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III. Key Obstacles to Development of Stable Funding

Focus group participants identified four major obstacles to the development of long-term stable funding for existing drug courts. They are

1. No stable funding base.

Most drug courts do not currently have a stable source of funding. It is almost always harder to develop a case for funding a new program or one that has been supported principally by Federal grants than for continuing to fund an existing program. Once a program receives State and/or local funding through an appropriations process, it begins each fiscal year with a base. Thus, it is important to substantiate inclusion of drug court costs as part of the regular budget, first to the trial court and other local agencies that contribute to the drug court and then to general government appropriating bodies.

2. Difficulties in defining and measuring success and showing cost-effectiveness.

Few drug court practitioners have skills for or experience in planning or conducting evaluation research. Although competent evaluation researchers can be found, the research needed to demonstrate effectiveness can be costly. This has been a difficult area for many local drug courts. Indeed, some do not have even basic information about performance.

3. Lack of public awareness and understanding of the value of drug courts.

Although some drug courts have been effective in developing public awareness of their work (and especially of their successes), focus group participants felt that much more could be done to increase the public’s knowledge and awareness of the value of drug courts. Public support—particularly the support of the many different groups, organizations, and individual families that benefit from the work of effective drug courts—can be critical in gaining stable funding. Conversely, lack of public support is likely to leave the drug court without the needed funding.

4. Resistance to drug courts from many judges and other justice system practitioners.

Focus group participants were candid about their perception that they are often somewhat isolated from the “main” court and criminal justice process. They noted that many of the judges in their courts and many other justice system practitioners (including court staff members, trial court administrators, State court administrators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, law enforcement officials, and others) are skeptical about (and sometimes hostile to) drug courts. Reasons for this resistance range from lack of knowledge about what drug courts do to fear that drug courts pose a threat to resources they would rather use for other priorities.

  Institutionalizing Drug Courts March 2002