A National Study found that Drug Courts are widely succesful.
Here’s a summary of the study’s findings:
Graduates of drug courts are less likely to be rearrested than persons processed through traditional court mechanics. Findings from drug court evaluations show that participation in drug courts results in fewer rearrests and reconvictions, or longer periods between arrests.
Nationwide, drug courts save taxpayer dollars compared to simple probation and/or incarceration, primarily due to reductions in arrests, case processing, jail occupancy and victimization costs. While not all persons diverted to drug court would have otherwise been sentenced to prison, for those individuals who are incarcerated, the average annual cost is estimated to be $23,000 per inmate, while the average annual cost of drug court participation is estimated to be $4,300 per person.
THE EFFECT OF SANCTIONS
The study showed that Drug Courts which reward/sanction all levels of good/bad behavior recognize there is value in incremental progress toward the goal of abstinence.
A participant who faithfully makes all court appearances and meets the obligations of the court may be rewarded with an acknowledgement of accomplishment. On the other hand, developing a flexible, graduated sanction program is a crucial contributor to a successful drug court program, because even those who are eventually successful in drug court tend first to relapse, warrant, and violate other program rules.
The study concluded that sanctioning should be seen as an opportunity to adjust treatment to limit subsequent relapse, rather than the first step on the path to an eventual termination of drug court participation and a likely sentence to custody.
ROLE OF THE JUDGE
One of the unique aspects of the drug court model is the frequency with which judges interact with participants. The relationship is less formalistic than in traditional courtrooms and is individualized based on the judge’s supervision of an individual’s progress. The goal is partnership, not sentencing.
My opinion? I’m a HUGE fan of drug court! First, it’s a great negotiating alternative for my clients facing drug charges IF the prosecutor’s charges are fairly strong, evidence is unlikely to be suppressed, and a jury would probably find the offender guilty. Second, it’s impossible to treat drug addiction with jail or prison sentences. Period. Once released, the offender may likely continue using drugs. Drug Court strikes at the root of the problem by addressing the drug addiction itself. Finally, the program forces offenders to stay focused on treatment. The State moniters treatment. If offenders fail, they may face heavy consequences and get kicked out of Drug Court.
Drug Court should be implemented to a greater degree than it already is. It presents a win/win situation for everyone: the public, courts, prosecutors, and ultimately the offender.