National Celebration Marks the 25th Anniversary of Drug Courts

The 25th Anniversary of Drug Courts kicked off on Friday with a national celebration at the site of the nation’s first Drug Court: Miami, Florida. Thousands of Drug Court professionals from across the country tuned in via webcast, and an audience of 200 Drug Court graduates, family, staff, elected officials and media were onsite to hear an incredible array of speakers tell the story of the creation of the Miami-Dade program and how it spawned the most successful criminal justice intervention in American history.

Miami-Dade Presiding Drug Court Judge Jeri Beth Cohen will served as master of ceremonies for an incredible line-up of speakers. Following the reading of a proclamation officially recognizing April 11 as “The 25th Anniversary of Drug Courts” day in Miami-Dade, Judge Cohen introduced Congressman Joe Garcia (FL-26) to explain the bipartisan support for Drug Courts in Congress and read from a statement about Drug Courts entered into the Congressional record. “For 25 years Drug Courts have transformed lives, reduced crime, and saved taxpayer dollars,” he said. “Among the numerous notable achievements is that 75% of the Drug Court graduates will never be arrested, furthermore Drug Courts have reduced the prison population.”


Miami-Dade Drug Court presiding Judge Jeri Beth Cohen (L) and Rep. Joe Garcia (R) present Drug Court architect Judge Herbert Klein with a Congressional Record Statement celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the program he created.

Miami-Dade Drug Court presiding Judge Jeri Beth Cohen (L) and Rep. Joe Garcia (R) present Judge Herbert Klein with a Congressional Record Statement celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the program he created.

Judge Cohen then introduced Tim Murray, Executive Director of the Pre-Trial Justice Institute. In 1988, Mr. Murray helped create the Miami-Dade Drug Court and was involved in its first few years of operation. “After a year of thoughtful and deliberate planning, and work by a team led by Judge Herbert Klein who was the Associate Chief Judge, this community developed a strategy for action,” he said. “We came up with a program that didn’t attack the individual, it attacked their addiction .We came up with a program built upon the philosophy of Judge Herbert Klein that nobody is discarded and we will do everything in our power to help repair them.”

The next speaker shed light on what it was like to go through Drug Court in those early days. David Markus now has over 20 years clean and is a successful criminal defense attorney. But in 1993, Mr. Markus was living a double life as an addict. He went through Drug Court under Judge Stanley Goldstein. “I started Drug Court as just another hopeless, hope to die drug addict. When I met Judge Goldstein I was really scared. I couldn’t believe the heart he had for our community, our graduates, and our addicts. He transcended his role as a judge.”


David Markus (L) and Tim Murray (R)

One of the key reasons Drug Courts were able to expand was support they received in Washington, DC. General Barry McCaffrey was instrumental in the growth of Drug Courts first as Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and most recently while serving on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. “I came down here in 1996 to become a student and find out what is going on. I spent two days with Judge Goldstein. It was clear that this concept was going to bring about a total change. It was a watershed moment,” he said. “It has been astonishing how far this has spread, including 23 countries worldwide. Drug Court showed that we can combine the court process with treatment.”

NADCP CEO West Huddleston took the stage to explain how the movement has become such an integral part of criminal justice reform occurring throughout the nation. “A new report from the Urban Institute projected that 17 States are expected to lower prison populations and save billions through innovative justice reforms including significant Drug Court expansion. Because of the spark that was lit here 25 years ago, countless policymakers now have the political cover needed to promote the strategies tested true in Drug Court. Just a few weeks ago Drug Courts received a record appropriation of $95.9 Million at a time when federal funding increases are near impossible.”

The final speaker before recognition of 40 Drug Court graduates was Michael Botticelli, the Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Acting-Director Botticelli spoke about the Administration’s continuing support for Drug Court. “These courts have helped the United States break free from the overreliance on incarceration and proven that our drug policy can be rooted in science based approaches that promote treatment and recovery. Drug Courts are a cornerstone of criminal justice reform and an essential component of the Administration’s 21 Century approach to drug policy.”

The event concluded with the recognition of 40 graduates representing the Miami-Dade Drug Court, Family Drug Court and Juvenile Drug Court. Former Miami-Dade Drug Court judges Deborah White-Labora and Jeffrey Rosinek joined Judge Jeri Beth Cohen to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that had helped them get to this moment. The speaker was Mario, a recent graduate. Like over a million others who have completed the program, he thanked his family and the court for giving him back his life.


Mario, a Miami-Dade Drug Court graduate, thanks his family and the staff of the Miami-Dade Drug Court for helping him overcome addiction.