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October 15, 2008

Notable NY Times piece on drug courts

The drug court movement continues to be getting a lot of good attention these days, and this article in the New York Times should further help the movement.  The article is headlined "Courts Give Addicts a Chance to Straighten Out," and here are some extended excerpts:

In Seattle, as in drug courts across the country, the stern face of criminal justice is being redrawn, and emotions are often on the surface. Experts say drug courts have been the country’s fastest-spreading innovation in criminal justice, giving arrested addicts a chance to avoid prison by agreeing to stringent oversight and addiction treatment.  Recent studies show drug courts are one of the few initiatives that reduce recidivism — on average by 8 percent to 10 percent nationally and as high as 26 percent in New York State — and save taxpayer money....

Since the first drug court began work, in Miami in 1989, the idea has spread to more than 2,100 courtrooms in every state, though they still take in only a small fraction of addicted criminals. Offenders, usually caught in low-level dealing or stealing to support their addictions, volunteer for 9 to 18 months or more of intrusive supervision by a judge, including random urine testing, group therapy and mandatory sobriety meetings.  The intent is a personal transformation that many participants say is tougher than prison — and with the threat of prison if they drop out or are kicked out....

Nationwide, 70,000 offenders are in adult or juvenile drug courts at any given time, with the number growing, said C. West Huddleston III, director of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. The concept has been supported by the Clinton and Bush administrations.  "To find an intervention that works has generated great excitement in the criminal justice community," said Greg Berman, director of the Center for Court Innovation, a research group in New York, where Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye has been a strong advocate....

But some scholars say that, because of high up-front costs, the limited success of drug treatment and a shortage of judges with the required personal talents, drug courts are unlikely to make a significant dent in the prison population.  Some lawyers also say the courts can infringe on the rights of defendants given that offenders usually must acknowledge guilt to enter the court, or in some places have already agreed to a plea bargain and sentence.  Thus an addict might opt for drug court to avoid prison or with sincere intentions of going straight, but if treatment fails and he is expelled from the program, he must serve a sentence without having seriously fought the charges.  His total time in court custody, between drug court and then prison, may be longer than it would have been otherwise.  Advocates respond that such offenders are facing a plea-bargaining mill in any case, and are offered an invaluable chance for change.

Some related posts about drug court programs and research:

October 15, 2008 at 01:30 PM | Permalink


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This has varying success. The
offenders/addicts will only reform
when they tire of going to court. Most
drop out of the drug court, and
elect general law sentencing, because
the rehab requirments are too costly.

Posted by: Large County Prosecutor | Oct 15, 2008 2:23:28 PM

Unfortunately the rehab can be so costly that unless the client has financial help from their family they cannot make they payments. If you grind someone down to the point where prison is their best option who has won?

Posted by: John Neff | Oct 15, 2008 7:56:11 PM

I was under the impression that if the Drug Court program is successfully completed (our son did!) then his felony would be sealed. Is this true or not?? Thanks for your reply!

Posted by: JOan Petramale | Feb 25, 2009 1:32:42 PM

The reason why money is such an issue is that the rehabs make tons of money. You do the numbers and you know that even $15,000 has a great margin in it.

Posted by: Orange County Drug Rehab | Feb 26, 2009 4:39:03 PM

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