The New York Times ran a story today about the drug courts that are not sending addicts to prison but into treatment programs instead.
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.
I'm always sceptical about these types of statistics, but in spite of the self-serving promotion, I think it might be true. Time spent in prison rarely contributes towards rehabilitation. Perhaps the only hope for addicts is something like this. Instead of spending time with other criminals, they would spend that time with other addicts trying to stay clean. Maybe it's all about peer pressure.
What do you think? Can addicted people ever really change? Do you think the problem with the old way is that it was not harsh enough?
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.
Let us know your opinion.