Journal for Advancing Justice Volume II:
"Best Practices in the Justice System for Addressing the Opioid Epidemic"

Opioid-related morbidity and mortality in the U.S. has been steadily increasing over the last two decades. In 2017 alone, 2.1 million Americans suffered from opioid use disorder (OUD), and 47,600 died from opioid overdose.

Predictably, the damage done to individuals with OUD involved in the criminal justice system has been even more devastating. Drug overdose is among the leading causes of death for persons reentering society after incarceration, with most of those overdoses attributed to opioids.

For those of us who work in and with the justice system, including in drug treatment courts, the death and suffering in front of us necessitate an urgent, concerted and sustained response. From first responders to judges, corrections officials to attorneys, probation officers to addiction and mental health treatment providers, we have not fully seized the opportunity in front of us to address OUD among justice-involved persons. A 2017 review of national treatment episode data sets showed that a mere 4.6% of justice-referred clients received agonist medication treatment, while 40.9% of OUD patients referred from non-justice sources received such treatment.

This second volume of the Journal for Advancing Justice, "Best Practices in the Justice System for Addressing the Opioid Epidemic," acknowledges some of the very real barriers justice professionals face to deploying clinical best practices in legal settings for justice-involved persons with OUD, but it also addresses the profound, misguided and sometimes institutionalized lack of understanding about medication-assisted treatment (MAT). It provides a range of articles written by both clinicians and justice professionals. These articles examine thoughtful clinical and legal strategies, provide insight into perspectives of and barriers to MAT, and review recent legal precedents that may have far-reaching effects on future criminal and legal cases.

Our hope is that this volume will 1) improve the dialogue between the justice and medical communities and 2) help promote both good treatment and effective legal protocols in the service of justice-involved persons with OUD.

This project was supported by Grant No. G1899ONDCP02A awarded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy of the Executive Office of the President. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Executive Office of the President.