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The Benefits of Drug Courts

Two-thirds of all adults and more than one half of all juveniles who are arrested test positive for illicit drugs, and as much of 90 percent of crime is drug or alcohol related. But incarcerated drug offenders don’t receive the treatment they need, and will likely use again and commit another offense upon release. That’s where drug courts come in.

Drug courts offer an effective alternative with a blending of justice and treatment. Drug court participants undergo intensive substance abuse treatment, case management, drug testing, supervision, and monitoring, and they report to regularly scheduled status hearings before a judge who is experienced in the drug court model. Drug courts also provide mental health treatment, trauma and family therapy, and job skills training, which help ensure lasting recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Scientists at the Treatment Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania say that “drug courts outperform all other strategies that have been used with drug-involved offenders”; Columbia University noted that “drug use and criminal behavior are substantially reduced while offenders are participating in drug court”; and the US Government Accountability Office concluded that “adult drug court programs substantially reduce crime by lowering re-arrest and conviction rates among drug court graduates well after program completion.”

Drug courts are also extremely cost efficient. Several recent studies have shown that cost savings range from $3,000 to $12,000 per client. Depending on the size of the drug court program, the cost savings in some counties exceed $7 to $9 million per year. There are about 55,000 individuals treated per year in drug courts, which creates more than $1 billion in annual savings.

Many courts are applying the drug court model to repeat DUI and DWI cases, either by implementing designated DWI courts or by accepting offenders into traditional adult drug courts. DWI courts are making offenders accountable for their actions while treating the underlying substance abuse problem and bringing about behavioral change. Drug courts also apply to juveniles.

Laurie Larew has eleven months of sobriety thanks to a new adult misdemeanor drug court program in Guadalupe County, Texas. She said she enrolled in the program because she knew she would need all the help she could get to fight her drinking problem. “I’m a very grateful recovering alcoholic,” she told the court. “The drug court has done a great deal for me in my life, and I’m tremendously grateful for it.”

Posted on June 5th, 2009
Posted in Drug Treatment

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