Monthly Archives: July 2013

Experts at Your Fingertips: The National Drug Court Online Learning System

The National Drug Court Online Learning System at
offers free training modules on a wide range of topics by national experts. In this podcast, Valerie Raine and Dennis
Reilly, both of the Center for Court Innovation, explain how drug courts can use the system to educate new employees and keep their teams
up to date on developments in the field. (August 2013)

Methamphetamine is not an issue for eastern drug courts. It’s a huge issue for Midwest and Midwestern drug courts.
So we have a session on methamphetamine. That won’t be applicable or probably of much interest to the Manhattan
treatment court, but it will be of enormous interest to treatment courts in Arkansas.

I’m Rob Wolf, director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation. Welcome to another New Thinking
podcast. Today we’re going to talk about a new tool to help drug court practitioners. And for people who, perhaps,
don’t know what drug courts are, they work with drug addicted offenders and link them to treatment using rigorous
evidence-based practices. Specifically today we’re going to talk about the National Drug Court Online Learning
System, which is available at It is a new initiative created by staff here at the Center
for Court Innovation with the support of the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. I’m speaking
with Valerie Raine, Director of Drug Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation and Dennis Riley, the Deputy
Director of Drug Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation. But rather than have me explain it, I thought
maybe you guys could just start off talking about, you know, what is the National Drug Court Online Learning System?

DENNIS RILEY: Thanks, Rob. The National Drug Court Online Learning System has been a long time coming. There’s
been plenty of opportunities for remote learning using webinars and conference calls, but this is really the first
time we’ve taken online learning to a new step with drug courts nationally. And the intent is to present information
on adult drug courts, which is able to be replicated on a frequent basis, used with individuals for individual learning,
and also with teams. The elements of the National Drug Court Online Learning System includes an adult drug court
course which has multiple lessons around the critical elements of drug courts. It also includes virtual site visits
of rural, urban, and suburban drug court locations as well as practitioner perspectives on some of the most important
issues to drug court practitioners.

ROB WOLF: And just so people get a sense of how it works,
they visit the website and then they can click on topic choices and what do they get? Videos? PowerPoints?

DENNIS RILEY: Well, first when you go to, you have to create a free account. This is
a free system supported by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance. Once you’ve created an account,
you receive an email confirming that a password has been created, and you can log directly into the Adult Drug Court
course. From there you see a listing of courses and lessons which include video presentations from national experts
on various drug court topics. You can also see the virtual site visits, practitioner perspectives, there’s also
a resource library that includes all the PowerPoint presentations that the experts are providing, as well as written
resources on drug court issues.

ROB WOLF: And just a sense of what those topics that they might
find address.

DENNIS RILEY: The topics range from psychopharmacology to sanctions and incentives,
confidentiality, constitutional issues.

ROB WOLF: So Valerie, let me ask you how did the National
Drug Court Online Learning System come about? What was the reason, the motivation for creating it?

RAINE: Thanks Rob. Originally, and this goes back several years, as drug courts, established drug courts started
experiencing significant turnover in team members—there’s a new judge, there’s a new prosecutor, there’s
a new treatment provider. And even in the sort of more luxury days of funding, you couldn’t hold a four day
training institute every time a team got one new team member. And so the motivation for it originally was to deal
with transitional team members, so that they could come onto a team, take these courses, and at least have some kind
of foundation in drug court practices, drug court operations, and so forth. And that continues to be one of the systems
primary functions. There are, however, other functions, other audiences that are being served as both federal and
state budgets suffer severe setbacks. State drug court administrators can not afford to send new or established drug
court practitioners to live training. It also takes time away from the operation. People have to travel, they’ve
got to close down the court. The federal agencies who have supported drug court training that was live, and was excellent
training, are increasingly concerned about their budgets, and increasingly interested in the potential of remote
learning to, if not replace, at least ameliorate the sort of downturn in live training.

So it sounds like the initial impetus was there are new people coming on – let’s give kind of a primer in how
drug courts work. But you’re saying now the online learning system really has something for everyone—both the
mature practitioner as well as the new arrival to a drug court.

VALERIE RAINE: Exactly. And we
intend to keep this a very dynamic site. As new developments emerge, new evidence-based practices are realized and
implemented, new changes in the law. We, in fact right now, are concluding the development of a module on veteran’s
tracks that specifically targets those drug court practitioners who want to set up a veteran’s court or a veteran’s

ROB WOLF: I’ll just throw this open to either one of you. Is this the new normal?
Can we expect that trainings going forward for drug court practitioners as well as perhaps in other areas—it’s
gonna be online? Or is this a temporary make-do because budgets are constrained?

Well, Rob, I think that online learning is certainly part of the future and I think it’s here to stay regardless
of budgets, because I think it serves a very important need that live training can’t, because it’s not
immediately accessible and accessible 24/7. That said, there is no real replacement for live training. Live training
offers interpersonal contact, opportunities to network, opportunities to talk with one another about what you’re
learning throughout the day, throughout the week. So I certainly hope that live training is very much a part of the
future, along with the opportunities and benefits that online learning offers.

are some certain benefits to having training online. It’s convenient, it’s self-paced. When people don’t
have a lot of time, they can actually consume potions of the content during a lunch break and then restart at any
time that they have some additional time. But we don’t think that this actually replaces live, in-person training.

ROB WOLF: So this is a national system that anyone in the country can access, but presumably every jurisdiction
has unique needs, unique resources, so I wonder how people can take advantage of what the system has to offer, but
also perhaps adapt it to their local circumstance.

VALERIE RAINE: First of all, in the virtual
site visits we did tours of urban courts, rural courts, a suburban court that’s a DWI court, so that when people
tour a court, they’re not saying oh, well that doesn’t apply to us because we’re rural. The other
area where we’ve tried to address different needs is, for instance, in the actual presentations. So methamphetamine
is not an issue for eastern drug courts. It’s a huge issue for Midwest and Midwestern drug courts. So we have
a session on methamphetamine. That won’t be applicable or probably of much interest to the Manhattan treatment
court, but it will be of enormous interest to treatment courts in Arkansas. The third way is that teams may not need
to review the entire curriculum that we have offered on the online learning system. They may do some kind of self-assessment
or just realize themselves that there are shortcomings in various pieces of their program. They might realize, oh
they’re getting a lot of false positives on their drug tests, the protocols don’t seem to be being followed,
you know, we need to sit down as a team and look at the drug testing module and make sure that we’re actually
following the sort of industry standards when it comes to that. So it can be a—and that could be the same for a session
on cultural competency or team members—a whole bunch of new team members come on and they don’t really seem
to get the concept of addiction as a disease. We need to go look at Steve Hanson talk about the psychopharmacology
of addiction, the affect on the brain, and what it actually does to the body.

ROB WOLF: And if
people are doing this and they have questions?

DENNIS RILEY: Not only is there technical support,
but there’s also a content helpline which goes to our desks so we can either identify an answer to a particularly
difficult question, or reach out to that expert who gave the presentation to get the answers for people.

ROB WOLF: How many drug courts are out there now?

DENNIS RILEY: Well, there’s over
2,700 drug courts across the United States, and typically when I go speak at the National Association of Drug Court
Professionals Conference and ask people how long they’ve been sitting in their drug court, half of the attendees
will often raise their hand and say they’re new to the drug court team. This is our response to that issue.

ROB WOLF: I know how hard you guys have worked on this system. It looks great, it’s amazing, it’s
got so much going on so I hope people do take advantage of it, and do visit I’ve been
speaking with Valerie Raine, director of Drug Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation. Thank you, Valerie.

VALERIE RAINE: Thank you Rob, for this opportunity.

ROB WOLF: And I’ve also been
speaking with Dennis Riley, the deputy director of Drug Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation.

DENNIS RILEY: Thanks, Rob. We look forward to this new future of training.

I’m Rob Wolf, director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation. To listen to other podcasts you
can visit our website at, and you can also listen to our New Thinking podcasts on iTunes.


A View of Domestic Violence from the Judge’s Bench

Chief Magistrate Judge Berryl Anderson of DeKalb County, Georgia discusses the lessons she
has learned over the course of 21 years as an attorney and 13 years as a judge about working with victims of domestic violence and improving
the justice system’s response to intimate partner violence. July 2013


SARAH SCHWEIG: Hi, I’m Sarah Schweig, and today I’m speaking with Chief Magistrate Judge Berryl Anderson,
who has been leading a domestic violence court project in DeKalb County, Georgia. She’s here in New York to participate
in the domestic violence open house here at the Center for Court Innovation, which is the office on Violence Against
Women’s comprehensive technical assistance provider for its courts program. Thanks for speaking with me today.

JUDGE ANDERSON: Well, I am honored and delighted to be here.

going to ask you a bit about your background. Your extensive experience in the courts includes representing victims
of domestic violence with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, and I was curious how did this inform your understanding
of how courts grapple with the complexities of these cases?

JUDGE ANDERSON: Well there are a lot
of complexities, as you know, in cases dealing with domestic violence, and last year I celebrated 21 years as an
attorney, and this year I’m celebrating 13 years on the bench. As a legal aid attorney, working with the Atlanta
Legal Aid Society, I got to work very closely victims of domestic violence and what I suddenly realized is the victims
present with multiple issues. So they’re not just dealing with domestic violence. They have housing issues, consumer
issues, perhaps access to credit issues. And so they present with multiple issues that inform their decisions and
their ability to be autonomous in the decisions that they make. And often times they just want the violence to stop.
They don’t necessarily want a divorce or to split up their family, or to move their children out of their local community
into another community. And the particular office that I worked in, which was the DeKalb County office, we also represented
clients in a neighboring jurisdiction, Wynette County. I got an opportunity to see that there was a little bit of
lack of uniformity from one courtroom and from one jurisdiction to the next. Now all the judges were applying the
law, but it just seemed like the process could be streamlined a little bit better in domestic violence cases, particularly
in those cases where victims were trying to get protective orders.

SARAH SCHWEIG: So as a judge,
how do you kind of come to see that you had a role in responding to domestic violence cases beyond that kind of business
as usual approach?

JUDGE ANDERSON: Well there are a couple of things that really—I think Oprah
calls them “a-ha moments”—so there were a couple of a-ha moments that I had as a judge and one of them was early
on, I took a course with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court judges called Enhancing Judicial Skills
in domestic violence Cases. It’s a three day workshop where judges get together, and it’s okay to be vulnerable and
talk about what you don’t know. And it’s an opportunity to hear what some of the best practices are around the country,
and it really inspired me to be creative and innovative, and to draw on the strengths in our community, and in our
judicial system, and in our courthouse. And every courthouse has a culture. So I realized that we had a lot of great
systems in place and a lot of great relationships, and it encouraged me and inspired me to build on those relationships
with community partners. And another thing that sort of merged with this is my participating in fatality reviews.
It is something that we usually conduct on an annual basis. It is just a very sad, very sobering reality of how terribly
things can go wrong when victims of domestic violence don’t get what they need on the front end. It’s taking a look
at every level of system contact that that particular victim had and each contact with the system is an opportunity
to better serve that victim. And so we look at it from a lens of how we can better serve victims. And what went wrong?
And not in a finger-pointing way, but where are the gaps in my system? And if you recognize gaps in your system,
and you can’t be thin-skinned about this process but it really is about saving lives.

You’re a recipient of an Office of Violence Against Women grant to develop your domestic violence court project.
Can you give me a picture of how that project developed and how it operates now?

you know they say that people practice medicine or they practice law, and I feel like I’m practicing this domestic
violence thing, and you know, you never get to the point where it’s perfect. And so I like to take a critical look
at my court on a regular basis. And this process actually evolved out of taking a look at what we already have in
place. Fortunately, my court is a recipient of a two-year grant to establish a compliance project. DeKalb County
Magistrate court handles temporary protective orders for our cases and there is a portion of Georgia law that says
if you’re a respondent and you have a 12-month family violence order entered against you, then you have to take a
family violence intervention program, a 24-week class. Well judges were issuing orders and the respondents were walking
out of the courtroom, and we had no way of knowing whether or not they were surrendering their weapons, whether or
not they were taking the family violence intervention classes. And so, fortunately, as a recipient of an OVW grant,
we’re allowed to set up that compliance project where I was able to hire two compliance officers. And immediately,
upon a judge issuing a 12-month protective order, the respondent leaves the courtroom and goes into an adjacent room
to meet with a compliance officer who will have the respondent—first of all, talk to them about weapons and we work
with our sheriff’s department to have those weapons seized and have them hold onto those weapons during the time
that the protective order is in place. We’ve also worked collaboratively with our probate court to make sure that
a respondent under a 12-month order doesn’t go to probate court to apply for a weapons permit. So we’ve got the compliance
officer who’s able to monitor this behavior, and the compliance officer makes unannounced visits to make sure that
the respondent’s actually not just showing up for class, but also participating in class. You know, if you’re victim
of domestic violence and you go to the criminal courthouse, and you may have to take a bus and a train to get there,
and then you’ve got this application to fill out, and you’re also upset because when the officer came to the scene,
perhaps he didn’t believe you or for whatever reason he didn’t arrest the batterer, so now you have to try to maneuver
the system on your own. So fortunately in many cases we’ll have an advocate from the Women’s Resource Center there
to assist the victim with the application process and to kind of sit with her when she talks with a judge. Now if
a judge believes that there is probable cause for a warrant to issue, then a warrant can issue at that time. But
if the judge believes there’s not quite probable cause, I need to, you know, I need more evidence, then it will be
set up for a warrant application hearing, which may happen 10 days to two weeks later. We have two courtrooms where
we conduct the warrant application hearings simultaneously, and in each courtroom you may have as many as 60 or 70
people. So it’s a little chaotic and the domestic violence cases are not separated from a neighbor dispute. They’re
not separated out from those other warrant application hearings. And so I realized that that was a service gap that
we have. And it’s great to have an advocate from the Women’s Resource Center there, but that advocate is going back
and forth from one courtroom to the other and trying to identify who’s there for a domestic violence case. So I realized
that there was a system gap and where with this courts training and improvements grant, that we’re able to improve
on the process that we have in place now. And what we will do is have a standalone warrant application hearing process
for victims of domestic violence. We’ll have judges who have the specialized training from the National Council of
Family and Juvenile Court Judges hear these cases. We will have an advocate in the courtroom with them, and the advocate
is no longer running back and forth. We will have sheriff’s department there to monitor courtroom security and will
make sure that the victims are on one side of the courtroom and the perpetrators are on the other side of the courtroom.
And then if a warrant actually issues as a result of that hearing, then the judge has an opportunity to impose special
conditions. And if there are violations then we can deal with that and perhaps revoke the bond and have the defendant
sit in jail until the case goes to trial.

SARAH SCHWEIG: So they know that there’s a real consequence—

JUDGE ANDERSON: There are teeth and there are absolute consequences. And this way we’ll be able to give
a lot of special attention to victims of domestic violence.

SARAH SCHWEIG: So what lessons would
you share with other judges who may be struggling with similar issues, or who might be interested in starting a support

JUDGE ANDERSON: Well if I had to pick one word, it’s about relationships. It’s about
relationships with other judges and other trial levels of court. It is important to develop and nurture relationships
with community stakeholders. Coordinated community response—it’s not just something that sounds good. You need to
actually put it in action, and as judges I think that we are, we have the inherent ability to call a meeting and
people will come. I meet quarterly with the advocates, with the sheriff’s department, with the prosecutors, the public
defenders. You need to do a little bit of research to find out what’s available in your community. And you have to
want to do this work. It is incredibly stressful. The proceedings can be very long. They can be very emotional. There’s
something called vicarious trauma, and judges suffer from it, as well as advocates and other people who deal with
domestic violence cases. You’ve got to learn a little bit about self-care. You’ve got to take care of yourself, whether
it’s walking, or running, or cycling, or swimming. Find something that you love to do that has absolutely nothing
to do with court, and nothing to do with domestic violence, because this work can absolutely consume you.

SARAH SCHWEIG: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for speaking with me today. I’m Sarah Schweig and I’ve
been speaking with Chief Magistrate Judge Berryl Anderson of DeKalb County Georgia, about building relationships
to fight domestic violence in the community. To find out more about the Center for Court Innovation, please visit Thanks for listening.