Alternative Sentencing for Drug Offenses: An Evaluation of the First Offender Call Unified for Success (FOCUS) Program

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Illinois Criminal Justice Authority, Center for Justice Research and Evaluation
Thousands are convicted for drug possession offenses in Illinois each year and many are sent to prison. Research indicates incarceration cannot effectively reduce drug use or drug crime and is not cost effective (Caulkins, et al., 1997; Green & Winik, 2010; PEW, 2015; PEW, 2018; Schiraldi et al., 2000). Therefore, many states have invested in alternative sentencing or specialized programming for individuals convicted of drug crimes. In this evaluation, we examined DuPage County’s First Offender Call Unified for Success (FOCUS) program. The FOCUS program serves individuals charged with a felony drug possession for the first time. The program is an alternative to prison with the dismissal of charges upon completion. The program incorporates specialized drug probation caseloads with treatment and services, a program-specific court docket with one designated judge, and drug and alcohol educational sessions. This program is fairly unique as individuals convicted of felony drug offenses are often excluded from alternative programming (Belenko et al., 2013).