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April 18, 2013

Obama Administration still talking up, but still not heavily investing in, drug courts

A corollary to the classic wisdom "follow the money" is the admonition "put your money where you mouth is." These phrase came to mind for me as I read the text of this speech by Acting Assistant AG Mary Lou Leary given today at the National African American Drug Policy Coalition National Spring 2013 Summit. These passages from the speech, in particular, reinforced my concern that the Obama Administration is still doing a great job of talking the talk, but still is not really walking the walk, in its support of drug courts:

[W]hen it comes to drugs, we know that the only way the justice system is going to realize its full potential as a problem solver is by using its authority to encourage and support treatment. And there’s no better illustration of how this can work than the drug court.

Drug courts use the authority of the judicial system to bring together criminal and juvenile justice agencies and social service and treatment providers to deal with the underlying causes of addiction in drug-involved offenders. In other words, it’s court-sanctioned and court-supported treatment. There are more than 2,600 drug courts in operation across the country, and our research shows that they’re effective in reducing recidivism, decreasing future drug use, and saving money.

Our challenge is to expand the drug court approach. Right now, they serve some 120,000 people, but that’s only a fraction of the 1.2 million non-violent drug offenders now in the system.  At the Office of Justice Programs, we’re continuing a proud tradition of supporting drug courts, going back to my early days at the agency under Attorney General Janet Reno, who started the first drug court program in Miami.  Continuing her legacy, last year our Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded 60 grants totaling almost $18 million to fund drug courts.

We’re also supporting the development and expansion of juvenile and family drug courts. Young drug-involved offenders can really benefit from the treatment, support, and accountability that drug courts provide, and families where children live with substance abusing parents can begin the process of stabilization through the drug court model.

I’m pleased the President’s budget to Congress requests $44 million to continue supporting drug courts and other problem-solving courts modeled on drug court principles.

I am pleased to hear continued promotion of drug courts by the Obama Administration because of the research that "shows that they're effective in reducing recidivism, decreasing future drug use, and saving money." But I am not pleased to here that the President's budget to Congress only requests $44 million to continue supporting drug courts and other problem-solving courts. The President's FY2014 budget calls for about $3.8 trillion, so a request of $44 million for drug courts amounts to, roughly,  around 0.0001% of the total budget.

I know I should not look a drug court budget gift horse in the mouth especially in these lean budget times.  But I still cannot help but wish this gift horse was larger given that research shows that drug courts are "effective in reducing recidivism, decreasing future drug use, and saving money."

April 18, 2013 at 01:57 PM | Permalink

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