Drug Treatment

Rockefeller Drug Law Reform

In April 2009, the landmark reforms of the Rockefeller Drug Laws (enacted pursuant to Chapter 56 of the Laws of 2009).were signed into law The reforms eliminated certain mandatory prison sentences by giving judges discretion to divert non-violent individuals with substance abuse histories to a variety of alternative sentences including judicial diversion programs modeled after Drug Courts.

These reforms will greatly increase the access to treatment for many offenders. The law strikes a careful and appropriate balance to ensure that non-violent addicted offenders receive the treatment they need while predatory major drug dealers are appropriately punished. While diversion alternatives will be available for many, there will still be a significant number of individuals with substance abuse issues will continue to be committed to prison. The sentencing reform legislation also addresses the needs of those individuals while in prison.

Drug Treatment Alternatives to Prison (DTAP) Program

In October 1990, Kings County District Attorney, Charles J. Hynes, initiated the Drug Treatment Alternatives to Prison (DTAP) Program on the premise that defendants would return to society in a better position to resist drugs and crime after treatment than if they had spent a comparable time in prison at nearly twice the cost. DTAP is the first prosecution-run program in the country to divert prison-bound felony offenders to residential drug treatment.

The program targets drug-addicted defendants arrested for nonviolent felony offenses who have previously been convicted of one or more nonviolent felonies.

Qualified defendants enter a felony guilty plea and receive a deferred sentence that allows them to participate in a residential therapeutic community (TC) drug treatment program for a period of 18 to 24 months.

Those who successfully complete the program have their charges dismissed; those who fail are brought back to court by a special warrant enforcement team and sentenced to prison.

To prevent relapse and reduce recidivism, the District Attorney's Office has formed a Business Advisory Council to identify and develop employment sources in Brooklyn. DTAP also has a job developer to assist graduates in finding and maintaining employment. DTAP Facts:

  • As of January 4, 2010, 2826 defendants have been accepted into the program. Three hundred and seventy-two are still in treatment and 1,203 have completed the program and have had their charges dismissed.
  • Since 1998, when DTAP shifted from a deferred-prosecution to a deferred-sentencing model, the program has achieved an impressive one-year retention rate of 76 percent, which compares very favorably with retention data of other studies of residential drug treatment programs.
  • The vast percentage (91%) of DTAP's graduates who are able to work are employed. Ninety percent of the participants who failed treatment have been returned to court for prosecution and sentencing in a median time of fourteen days.
  • DTAP is highly cost effective. Our analysis of the savings realized on correction, health care, public assistance and recidivism costs combined with the tax revenues generated by the DTAP graduates reveals that diversion to DTAP has resulted in economic benefits of $48.2 million dollars per the 1,203 graduates.

Due to the efficacy of the Brooklyn DTAP model, it was subsequently replicated in the four other boroughs and today provides chemical dependency treatment services to more than 1,000 New York City clients a year.

Drug Courts

New York State Drug Courts represent the coordinated efforts of the judiciary, prosecution, defense bar, probation, law enforcement, mental health, social service and treatment communities to actively and forcefully intervene and break the cycle of substance abuse, addiction and crime. As an alternative to less effective interventions, drug courts quickly identify substance abusing offenders and place them under strict court monitoring and community supervision, coupled with effective, long-term treatment services. In this blending of systems, the drug court participant is assigned a case manager who coordinates an intense regimen of substance abuse and mental health treatment, drug testing and probation supervision while reporting to regularly scheduled status hearings before a judge with specialized expertise in the drug court model (Fox & Huddleston, 2003). In addition, drug courts may provide job skill training, family/group counseling and many other life-skill enhancement services. New York state leads the nation in the expansion and institutionalization of drug courts into daily court operations. Chief Judge Judith Kaye recognized the benefits of the program and had the vision to ask that it be implemented in every jurisdiction in the State. As of May 2013, there were 148 drug courts in operation. The operational drug courts are from family, juvenile, criminal, town and village courts.

Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives

OASAS continues to collaborate with The New York State Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (OPCA) to enhance public safety and public health through OPCAs Alternatives to Incarceration programs (ATI). ATI programs provide critical services to New York state's criminal justice system by reducing reliance on incarceration and lowering recidivism by assisting offenders in changing their behaviors to lead law-abiding lives. OASAS supports these efforts through the provision of specialized training around Substance Use Disorders for Probation Officers and other personnel who provide services to the criminal justice population. Additionally, OASAS works closely with OPCA to increase access for probationers to its network of Certified Treatment Providers.

Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC)

OASAS licensed programs have an ongoing relationship with New York City Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (EAC-TASC). TASC in New York City oversees five sites and 22 programs. TASC employees interact with judges, court personnel, the Defense Bar, district attorneys, certified treatment providers and community-based organizations. In recent years, there has been increasing awareness of the value of Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC) program services as a means to identify suitable offenders with substance abuse problems for diversion.  TASC services positively influence numerous offenders to acknowledge their substance abuse problems, undergo treatment and counseling, and comply with terms and conditions of their release.  TASC programs provide essential support and coordination of service delivery to achieve successful reintegration of participants to their respective communities.

Department of Correctional Services and Community Supervision (DOCCS)

There are more than 54,000 individuals incarcerated in NYS correctional facilities at the present time. The NYS Department of Correctional Services and Community Supervision (DOCCS) estimates that 80 percent of the inmates incarcerated in state prisons are in need of alcoholism/substance abuse treatment. Annually, approximately 25,000 inmates are released to the community, with approximately 80 percent of this group needing treatment. OASAS has collaborated with DOCCS to enhance that agency's capacity and capability to provide quality chemical dependence treatment services to its inmate population, and to prepare inmates for the transition to community living by accessing appropriate community-based addiction treatment services. Highlights of this partnership include:

  • the establishment of the Edgecombe Treatment Facility for technical violators of parole with substance abuse problems. This innovative approach was initiated in 2008.
  • how OASAS, via an interagency Memorandum of Understanding, will make available to DOCCS up to $300,000 annually for the purpose of purchasing community-based chemical dependence outpatient services for inmates in work release status. The agreement covers all New York state counties with the exception of the five New York City boroughs.
  • information about how OASAS provides technical assistance upon request, such as identifying screening tools for special populations (the MINI for co-occurring psychiatric and addictive disorders and Spanish language substance abuse screening tools). Staff also assists with alerting DOCCS to appropriate training opportunities and evidence-based practices. This has included the recent professional development of DOCCS staff through motivational interviewing training provided by OASAS.

Willard Drug Treatment Program

Willard is a Drug Treatment Campus (DTC) operated by the NYS Department of Correctional Services and Community Supervision (DOCCS) in collaboration with OASAS. It was created in 1995 as a new sentencing option for low-level drug offenders and parole violators who previously would have been sent to a traditional prison. The Willard program was created as an intermediate sanction — with teeth — to deal with the problem of relapse. Recovery can be a difficult road, and fortunate is the addict or alcoholic who does not stumble on his or her way. By some accounts, relapse should be regarded as a standard step in the recovery process. Before Willard, however, there was no way to recognize this. Prosecutors and parole authorities were faced with an all-or-nothing choice — invoke the full measure of the state's punitive might and throw the relapse back in prison or, officially, look the other way. Willard, however, offers a third way. The DTC is a demanding, three-month, shock incarceration-style residential therapeutic program, followed by six months of out-patient treatment in the community under intensive supervision by parole officers affording a stronger measure of protection to the community than is provided by standard community treatment programs. For the addict, Willard is not only a reprieve from a full prison term, but a new opportunity to tackle his or her addiction.


The Edgecombe Specialized Chemical Dependence Services program provides intensive services to parole detainees housed at Edgecombe Residential Treatment Facility, in Manhattan, for a period of 10-45 days, preparing them for a return to their communities, and engagement in community-based addiction treatment. The facility holds 110 parolees, each voluntarily detained, with the overall service capacity of approximately 1,200 parolees annually. Edgecombe is staffed by a combination of:

  • DOCCS correctional officers,
  • DOCCS Offender Rehabilitation Counselors; and
  • Treatment Staff of the OASAS-certified provider (Odyssey House).

Parole detainees are individuals who are being detained by DOCCS pending a determination regarding their possible re-incarceration. The services are designed to provide intensive treatment to parole detainees with the aim of returning them to their communities and to engage them in further addiction treatment. All detainees are expected to have a diagnosis of alcohol or substance addiction or abuse requiring intervention and treatment. The parole detainees will be held in the residential facility and will be provided addictions treatment. Edgecombe effectively treats parolees in a stabilization program and upon completion, they are referred to continuing care services consistent with an established treatment plan. Goals of the Program: The goal of the Edgecombe Residential Treatment Facility is to positively redirect the behavior of a parolee at risk of being re-incarcerated due to non-compliance with conditions of parole. Utilizing a combination of comprehensive treatment services and intensive parole supervision, the Edgecombe team engages the parolees in developing and implementing a community-based parole stabilization plan. Services are provided to the participants to ensure that continuity of care is consistent with treatment and continuing care plans. DOCCS provides security, maintenance, food services, and medical services to parolees housed at Edgecombe Residential Treatment Facility. DOCCS also provides services to meet the religious and spiritual needs of the parolees. Treatment of parolees is a complex issue that must take into account a variety of unique issues related to their lives, including:

  • criminal thinking;
  • impulsive behavior;
  • poor decision-making skills;
  • criminal behavior;
  • poor critical thinking skills; and
  • (often) a long history of alcohol/substance abuse.

The Edgecombe Specialized Chemical Dependence Services program enables the parolees to “step back” from the stressors in their lives, reassess their lifestyle, and develop plans for successful community reintegration. The programmatic framework includes:

  • comprehensive evaluation of all relevant domains (e.g., alcohol/substance use, employability, family relationships, housing, mental health);
  • individualized treatment plans;
  • structured therapeutic activities;
  • individualized community reintegration plans; and
  • referrals to community-based services.

In addressing the unique needs of parolees, the treatment environment must encourage parolees to address issues of addiction and criminal lifestyle and to develop new skills and strategies for successful and productive community living.