In August of 1996, after almost a year of exhaustive planning and coordination involving local drug and alcohol treatment agencies, identification of staff and obtaining the approval of the District Administrative Judge, the Town of Amherst and Judge Mark G. Farrell opened the doors of the first Suburban Drug Treatment Court in the United States and began an almost two decade commitment to the principles of Therapeutic Justice.
Judge Farrell was convinced that the emerging national effort to remold the Criminal Justice System to concentrate on therapeutics as opposed to the traditional theories of deterrence and punitive sentencing, provided a realistic alternative to the revolving door of recidivistic criminal activity based on drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.
From modest beginnings, the Amherst Drug Treatment Court has become one of the largest in the State of New York and in the nation. In almost 18 years of operation, Amherst’s Drug Court has been able to maintain its financial viability, in difficult economic times, by receiving national, state, local and philanthropic grant funding and in doing so has been able to facilitate drug and alcohol treatment to over 6,000 criminal defendants with a resultant savings of millions of dollars of public expense by fostering recovery, accountability and self dignity in its graduates as opposed to the immense expenditure of funding for incarceration. As an effective “Problem Solving Court” the formula and protocol has worked due to an exemplary treatment staff, firmness, consistency and compassion.
In 1997 Judge Farrell established the first Domestic Violence Court in Erie County, New York along similar philosophical lines to give victims of domestic violence greater assistance and protection. In late summer of 2001, applying the same Therapeutic Justice philosophy used in the Drug Court, to the problematic and catastrophically destructive addiction of pathological and compulsive gambling within the Criminal Justice System by breaking new ground through the implementation of the world’s only Gambling Treatment Court with a separately certified staff of providers. This model is currently being copied and implemented in various other courts around the world.
2009 saw the Amherst Therapeutic Court Team follow the innovative approach of Judge Robert Russell of Buffalo City Court in terms of implementing a progressive approach to dealing with Military Veterans in the Criminal Justice System by initiating in Amherst the first Suburban Veterans Treatment in the Nation. This compassionate, yet accountable response to the complex array of problems presented by criminal defendants, who have given to their country, both overseas and at home, through service in the Armed Forces, is dealing with a compelling and deeply personal need in our society.
Judge Mark G Farrell retired from the Amherst Court in December of 2013. Judge Geoffrey K. Klein has assumed the Therapeutic Courts operation assisted by Judge Kara Buscaglia.
The Therapeutic Courts; operated by Judge Geoffrey K. Klein and Judge Kara Buscaglia are a valuable asset within the Town of Amherst that service a broad range of problem defendants in an efficient, effective, compassionate, yet firm and responsible manner to protect not only the integrity of the community at large through the reduction of continued recidivistic criminal behavior but also, most importantly to restore personal dignity and personal value to those affected by addiction.
The presence and support of the Amherst Drug Court and Therapeutic Foundation, Inc., and its selfless donors, make all of this possible.