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List Incentives And Sanctions

The following lists of incentives and sanctions were collected from hundreds of treatment courts around the country during NDCI training events. This compilation is intended to encourage treatment courts to think more broadly and creatively about the types of responses they might provide in their own programs. NDCI faculty grouped the responses into conceptually similar categories and in approximate order of magnitude or severity. For incentives and sanctions training, click here.

These lists are not intended to be exhaustive. Treatment courts are encouraged to develop their own responses and to gauge the effectiveness of those responses within their programs.

The lists do NOT include therapeutic responses or adjustments to participants’ treatment regimens. Treatment adjustments should be based on participants’ clinical needs as determined by qualified treatment professionals, and should not be used to reward desired behaviors or to punish undesired behaviors.

Finally, the lists do not refer to the specific target behaviors that the incentives and sanctions should be used to address. For example, research indicates lower magnitude rewards should ordinarily be provided for relatively simpler (or proximal) achievements than for difficult (or distal) achievements. Deciding on the most appropriate magnitude of a response to a particular behavior is beyond the scope of this document, but is addressed in several NDCI publications.

Please Note: The responses are annotated to offer helpful tips and cautions, garnered from professional experience and research findings, to assist the reader to effectively apply the responses. To view the annotation, click on the highlighted specific response in the chart below.

To download a printable version of the annotated version of the document, click here.

INCENTIVES

Low Moderate High

Verbal Praise

Reduced Supervision Requirements

  • Less frequent probation appointments
  • Less frequent status hearings

Supervised Day Trips

  • Fishing trips
  • Movie outings
  • Intramural sports
  • Sporting events
  • Bowling tournaments
  • Recovery Olympics

Small Tangible Rewards

  • Bookmarks
  • Bus tokens
  • Phone cards
  • Healthy foods (e.g., juice, tea, granola bars, fruit, trail mix) 
  • Coffee mugs 
  • Birthday or holiday cards
  • Books or children’s books
  • Planners or calendars
  • School supplies
  • Toiletries
  • Underwear
  • Frames for certificates
  • Picture albums
  • Serenity Stones
  • T-Shirts with inspirational sayings or quotes

Reduced Community Restrictions

  • Later curfews
  • Relaxed area restrictions 

Travel Privileges

  • Weekend pass out of county
  • Phone check-ins may be required

Recognition in Court

  • Handshake from the judge
  • Round of applause in court
  • Certificate of accomplishment for achieving a clinically important milestone

 

Enhanced Milieu Status

  • Appointment as in-program peer mentor
  • Assistant group leader
  • Self-help group facilitator
  • All-Star List or Dean’s List

Large Tangible Rewards

  • Commemorative gift issues of the “Big Book” or other readings
  • Concert tickets
  • Sports tickets
  • Autographs (musicians and actors frequently offer these as a public service to programs treating addiction)
  • Tattoo removal
  • Yoga or Tai Chi classes
  • Health club memberships
  • Savings bonds
  • Home improvement or car repair assistance
  • Waiver of fines or fees
  • School or tuition fees
  • Donated education courses

Symbolic Rewards

  • Sobriety chips
  • Sobriety key chains
  • Sobriety tokens
  • “Live Strong” bracelets
  • Copies of addiction readings such as the AA “Big Book” 

Moderate Tangible Rewards

  • Gift certificates (typically $5 to $20 value)
  • Movies passes or movie rentals
  • Admission passes to amusement parks or sporting events
  • Introductory memberships to spas or gyms
  • Haircuts
  • Makeup or cosmetic sessions
  • Groceries
  • Work or school clothing or shoes 
  • Bowling, skating or other recreational passes
  • Quilts, blankets, towels
  • Watches
  • Calling cards
  • Gas cards

Point Systems

  • Points or vouchers for phase advancement or other major accomplishments, which may be redeemed for a substantial prize at graduation

Posted Accomplishments

  • Pro-sobriety artwork or writing essays displayed in the courtroom, treatment program or probation office
  • Photos of participants receiving GEDs or other awards
  • Letters of commendation from employers or teachers

Fishbowl Drawings 

  • Chits from a fishbowl that may earn tangible or non-tangible incentives of varying magnitudes.

Ambassadorships 

  • Represent the Drug Court to outside agencies, such as church groups, legislators or the media.

Written Commendations

  • Letters of Attainment from the judge
  • Progress Reports or Report Cards from treatment providers or probation officers

Self-Improvement Services 

  • Resume writing assistance 
  • Dress for Success
  • Job interview preparation classes
  • Pre-vocational assistance
  • GED, literacy, or educational assistance
  • Public speaking pointers
  • Meal preparation or nutritional classes
  • Yoga or exercise classes

Commencement Ceremony

  • Robes and “Pomp and Circumstance”
  • Flowers, plaques, and framed diplomas
  • Pictures taken with the staff and judge
  • Delivering thankfulness speeches
  • Hearing speeches from local or national celebrities and politicians  
  • Words of redemption and congratulation from the arresting police officer
  • Media coverage or interviews bearing witness to graduates’ success
 

Supervised Social Gatherings

  • Picnics or parties
  • Sober dances
  • Recovery games or activities
  • Picture day (formal portraits taken)
  • Family day (food and games provided to invited family members and friends)

Legal Incentives

  • Dismissal of the charge(s) or vacation of a guilty plea
  • Reduction in the charge(s)
  • Reduction of the sentence
  • Avoidance of jail or prison 
  • Curtailment of a probation term or “tail”
  • Consolidation of multiple probationary terms
  • Expungement of the arrest or conviction record

SANCTIONS

Low Moderate High

Verbal Admonishments

Increased Supervision Requirements

  • More frequent probation appointments
  • More frequent status hearings

Day Reporting 

  • Several hours per day or week at probation office or other reporting center probation appointments

Letters of Apology 

 

*Tape recordings may be used in lieu of writing assignments for participants who are illiterate or have difficulty writing.

 

Electronic Surveillance

  • Anklet monitor
  • SCRAM® device
  • Car interlock device

Essay Assignments

*Tape recordings may be used in lieu of writing assignments for participants who are illiterate or have difficulty writing.

  • Definition of recovery 
  • Relapse triggers
  • Drug refusal skills
  • Managing cravings
  • Lying and dishonesty
  • The disease of addiction
  • The impact of addiction on the family
  • The role of treatment
  • The role of peer support groups

Useful Community Service

  • Set up for or clean up after treatment sessions, court sessions or graduation ceremonies
  • Wash police cars 
  • Clean the jail, courthouse, treatment facility or probation office 
  • Pick up trash on the roadside
  • Sweep gyms or other facilities 
  • Clean graveyards
  • Clean animal shelters 
  • Assist with Habitat for Humanity
  • Work in a soup kitchen
  • Staff community events
  • Clean Sheriff’s horse stalls

Home Detention

  • Phone monitored curfew

Daily Activity Logs  

  • Monitor and report on adherence to pre-set daily routine

Monetary Fines or Fees

 

Flash Jail Sanctions 

  • Ideally 1 to 5 days
  • May be served on weekend or other pre-planned time

Journaling

  • Monitor and report on thoughts, feelings and attitudes associated with drug use or antisocial activities

 

Holding Cell

  • Remain at courthouse and return for status review at end of court session

Termination  

 

Life Skills Assignments

  • Open a bank account 
  • Obtain a state identification card
  • Reinstate a drivers license
  • Enroll in GED, H.S. or college classes 
  • Prepare for or conduct a job search

 

 

 

“Jury Box” Observation

  • Observe Drug Court or other court proceedings
   

Increased Community Restrictions

  • Earlier curfew
  • Increased person or area restrictions
   

Team Round-Tables 

  • Team provides feedback and direction from multiple perspectives
   

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Thank you for visiting the National Drug Court Resource Center (NDCRC) website. You've been selected to take part in a brief survey to let us know what we are doing well, and where we can improve. Please take a few minutes to share your opinions, which are essential in helping us provide the best online experience possible.



Click to Visit the Survey Now