The mission of the Albany County Drug Court is to provide a positive alternative for non-violent substance abusing offenders by providing appropriate, court-supervised treatment and effectively using community resources to improve the opportunity for recovery. The Albany County Drug Court holds defendants accountable while assisting participants to achieve long-term recovery to become law-abiding citizens and successful family and community members.
The goals and objectives of the Albany County Drug Court are to: (1) break the cycle of drug and alcohol addiction, (2) reduce drug and alcohol related crime, (3) effective use of community and criminal justice resources, (4) restore participants to society, and (5) reduce court caseloads and saving Albany County and New York State tax dollars.
The drug court model utilized in Albany county is a post plea/deferred sentencing model. This means that an individual will plea into drug court facing a felony disposition and sentencing will be deferred for that defendant to take part in the Albany County Drug Court Program. If the defendant is unsuccessfully discharged he or she will face sentencing within the statutory guidelines set forth in the Criminal Procedure Law.
Judge Stephen W. Herrick presides over the Albany County Drug Court Program. The Drug Court team is comprised of a drug court coordinator and several other Drug Court case managers. These individuals are tasked with monitoring Drug Treatment expenditures and contract implementation, collection of program evaluation information, performing case management services, and coordinating assessments and evaluation as well as treatment referrals of potential Drug Court candidates.
A defendant is deemed eligible to participate in the Albany Drug Court Program if they are at least 18 years of age and have been domiciled within the Capital Region for at least one consecutive year prior to the date of arrest. It is also required that the defendant have a significant history of alcohol and/or drug abuse and could benefit from substance abuse treatment. A defendant will be excluded from Drug court consideration if that individual has a prior conviction of any violent crime as defiend by Penal Law section 70.20, or has a prior conviction for any crime as defined in Penal Law Section 130 or has currently been diagnosed with a major mental illness as defined in DSM-IV or has a history of violent behavior.
Once a participant is deemed clinically appropriate a conference will be held before the Judge. At that conference the Assistant District Attorney and the defense attorney will discuss the facts and circumstances with the judge and a representative of the Drug Court staff and an ultimate decision will be made as to that defendant’s participation in the Albany County Drug Court Program.
During the course of a defendant’s participation in the Albany County Drug Court program he or she will face sanctions. Additionally, the participant will also face certain incentives while in the program. Sanctions include but are not limited to community service as well as graduated jail sanctions and possible termination from the program. Incentives include but are not limited to public recognition of progress in the Drug Court program, sobriety tokens, decreased frequency in Drug Treatment reporting and ultimately, graduation from the Drug Court Program.
Drug Court participants are required to maintain sobriety, submit to random drug testing, report as required by the Drug Court team for monitoring and successfully participate and complete any treatment recommended. Drug Court assessments and evaluations are completed by the Drug Court in conjunction with either the Albany County Sheriff’s Department or the Albany County Office of Mental Health.
The two main methods of discharge from Albany County Drug Court are either successful completion of the program resulting in graduation or unsuccessful termination. Graduation occurs after a participant maintains 120 days of consecutive abstinence, maintains gainful employment, is enrolled in schooling or is engaged in a meaningful activity, has paid all of his or her fines, restitution and other court costs, maintains stable housing and completed a pre-graduation questionnaire. A participant will be unsuccessfully terminated from the program if that participant accrues missed and/or positive drug tests, altered drug tests, threatens violence towards the treatment staff, drug court team members or other participants in the program or is rearrested for another crime.
As of January 2012 there are approximately 185 current Albany County Drug Court participants. The program is designed with a maximum occupancy of 200 participants, however the number of maximum participants has from time to time exceeded 200 participants.