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The Evolving Role of the Prosecutor in Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts: Advice From the Field

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2019
8 pages
After describing the role of the prosecutor in juvenile drug treatment courts (JDTCs), this report reviews the scope of knowledge and skills the JDTC prosecutor should have to function effectively, followed by an overview of the challenges they face and suggestions for addressing them.
One of the primary responsibilities of a prosecutor in any court, including JDTCs, is to ensure that community safety is a top priority, which includes ensuring that victims' voices are heard in court proceedings. The prosecutor is also the court's "gatekeeper," which involves ensuring the court's compliance with eligibility standards regarding the youth who are admitted to JDTC participation. In addition, JDTC prosecutors serve as community leaders and educators in informing the public about the need for and purposes of JDTCs. Prosecutors should also assist in identifying and connecting court services to community resources required to address the needs of substance-abusing youth managed by JDTCs. Regarding the knowledge JDTC prosecutors should acquire, it is critical that they receive ongoing training in incentives and sanctions that can mold behavior, the features of adolescent development, the characteristics of substance-use disorders, and evidence-based drug treatment options. Resources that facilitate such knowledge and training are listed in this report. Regarding skills and attributes of JDTC prosecutors, they must be highly motivated to work in juvenile court and function well in cooperative interactions with the JDTC team. The overall challenge of being a JDTC prosecutor is to guide youth in a period of growth and development that often includes relapses. This report provides advice to JDTC prosecutors regarding techniques of building rapport and constructive interaction with substance-abusing youth and their families.

Date Published: June 1, 2019