Graduated Sanctions and Rewards at Four New York State Drug Courts: An Analysis of the Relationship Between Infractions and Sanctions and Achievements and Rewards

Dana Fox, Center for Court Innovation

A model of graduated sanctions and rewards is considered an essential component in a successful drug treatment court. But do courts consistently employ this model? This paper will examine the relationship of infractions to sanctions, and of achievements to rewards, in four of the largest and oldest adult drug courts in New York State - Brooklyn, Queens, Suffolk, and Syracuse. The nature and level of responses to given infractions and achievements will be analyzed, as well as introducing the dynamic of jail sanctions. Two models of responses to infractions and achievements will be considered - the graduated model and the isolated model. In the graduated model, responses to events (both positive and/or negative) are seen from the perspective of the entire compliance behavior of the participant, taking into consideration not only the instant event, but the severity of the infraction and where this event occurs in the sequence of other infractions. In the graduated model, a participant that commits the same infraction over and over will see increasingly more serious sanctions with each subsequent infraction, even if the infractions are all of the same type. In the isolated model, each infraction or achievement is viewed as an isolated event and sanctioned or rewarded appropriately. With this model, the participant that commits the same infraction over and over should receive the same sanction every time. In general, drug courts do not use this second method, the isolated model, but analysis shows that they do not exclusively follow the graduated model either. If the graduated and isolated models are on the two opposite ends of the spectrum, all four of the examined drug courts fall at different points somewhere in the middle of the continuum.

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Updated 05/20/2006