Throughout the United States, Federal judges and prosecutors are proscribing prison for drug-addicted, non-violent offenders in favor of treatment programs and community service. Unofficially known as Drug Courts, this is an effort to avoid overly punitive and destructive sentencing. Moreover, the Justice Department has backed this idea, allowing courts to dismiss charges in certain cases.
This is a Federal approach to a program that his been highly effective in numerous state level prosecutions. States are finding this method preferable to incarceration as it is less expensive and more effective than prison for many recidivist, drug dependent offenders. Recognizing this, the Federal government is now espousing it as a solution.
The following states, many of whom already had such a system in place, have been chosen for the Federal program: California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. So far, approximately 400 potential prison inmates have been spared incarceration and have begun treatment under the Drug Court program.
This is a win-win. Drug Courts focus on helping addicted users receive treatment and rehabilitation, and they save taxpayers the huge expense of warehousing inmates. It’s not an end to the inane and destructive drug war, but it can be seen as a Christmas Miracle cease fire.
Defendants agree to accept responsibility, sign up for drug treatment and community service, and allow judges to track their success. If they complete the program and stay out of trouble, they receive a commuted sentence. Violation of any of these conditions will result in their receiving the full sentence they would otherwise have gotten. Drug Courts are not available to defendants who are accused of violent crimes, high value drug traffickers or gang members.
To learn more, go to this NYT article.
BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.
- Justice praises bill on prison overcrowding (wvgazette.com)
- Drug Courts Work (captainjustice.net)
- New report in Minnesota documents success of drug court model (sentencing.typepad.com)
- Northern Hills Drug Court holds graduation (rapidcityjournal.com)
- Retiring Beaufort County Drug Court judge transformed court, offenders’ lives (islandpacket.com)
- We know community crime prevention pays off: Guest opinion (oregonlive.com)
- Houston-Henry County Circuit get Adult Drug Court Program (wtvy.com)
- Drug Court’s new approach: Community service instead of jail time (tdn.com)
8 thoughts on “Judges Opt for “Drug Courts” in Non-violent Cases”
Hey! Thanks for this post. At last there is discussion about the insanity of sending addicted persons to prison, rather than treatment on demand in the community.
For a slightly different ‘take’ on Drug Courts and diversion strategies, please take a look at http://www.massdecarcerate.org. This is our website which was active during the grassroots campaign against the construction of the Chicopee Women’s Jail.
We suggest folks be a little skeptical about Drug Courts and why prosecutors and judges seem to like them. Such courts do not address the problem, only the symptoms. And, rather than acting as diversion, they’re really about diversification of the prison system itself. See:
Drug Courts and Treatment as an Alternative to Incarceration compiled by SHaRC at http://www.massdecarcerate.org.
Thank you for the comment, and the link. I’ll check it out. — BitcoDavid
This is a fantastic post. Thanks for your tireless work David. I am in favor of drug court compared to prison sentences for low level drug addicts. I have seen some amazing examples of drug addicts recovering and getting back on their feet. The program is incredibly hard and tedious. The offender has to jump through so many hoops like, show up to court every week with requirements such as job search proof, required meetings for sobriety and other mandatory actions. All of that work toward a new life is a far better alternative to a prison sentence where violence and gangs take over as a form of survival. Speaking from experience here.
Yes, I’m well aware of your experience. And believe me, I listen when you speak (or type, anyway.) Thanks for the comment.