Drug Courts a Win-Win in Many States

Drug Courts a Win-Win in Many States

Plagued by denial, drug addicts are infamous for refusing to get help. But when faced with the threat of jail time, many addicts will agree to the treatment in lieu of incarceration offered by some drug courts. While some will return to drugs or alcohol, studies show that drug court programs by and large have been a win-win for all involved.

What Is Drug Court?

Drug courts give nonviolent substance abuse offenders the opportunity to receive drug rehab treatment in place of jail time, or in some cases probation.

The first drug court was established in Florida in 1989. As a result of its success, more than 2,140 drug courts have begun operating throughout the U.S. Now, roughly 120,000 individuals are treated for addiction annually because of a drug court program.

What to Expect in Drug Court

There are a variety of drug court models, but most require the following:

  • Participation in an inpatient or outpatient drug rehab treatment program
  • Random drug testing
  • Regular check-ins with the drug court judge and court administrators
  • Monitoring and reporting by the drug rehab treatment program
  • Escalating sanctions if the judge’s orders are not followed

In some cases, judges may also order community service, holding down a job and avoiding additional arrests.

Benefits of Drug Court

More than 10 years of research suggests that drug court is beneficial for addicts, their families, the court system and the public. Benefits of drug court programs include:

  • Treatment gives people the opportunity to contribute to society by working, paying taxes and taking care of their families.
  • Drug court programs are less costly than incarceration. Studies show the typical cost savings range from $3,000 to $12,000 per offender, for a total of $7 to $9 million per year.
  • Drug court programs reduce crime and re-arrests. The recidivism rate for offenders outside the drug court system is around 48 percent, compared to 4-29 percent among those in a drug court program.
  • The criminal justice system will have more resources to tackle cases against violent criminals.
  • Drug court programs break the cycle of addiction and criminal behavior.

Because of these benefits, there is a movement to expand the reach of drug courts to every community throughout the U.S. While many people need the wake-up call of “hitting bottom,” they also need addiction treatment once they have reached their lowest point.

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