Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Drug Courts are Saving Addicts from Prison

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.


  1. Sticking 50 junkies together to trade ideas instead of being mixed in a general prison population will do them some good as far as networking when they get out but it won't help at all with addiction issues.

    End the drug war. Prohibition has never worked for anything. Prosecute people that steal or do stupid things under the influence just like anybody else that committed the same offenses.

    Their is no magic bullet.
    Drug courts and diversion programs aren't a magic bullet. Just a distraction.


    Or get a rope and hang them all. Your pick.

  2. Can addicted people ever really change?

    some alcoholics do sober up, so yes. the question is how to convince them to make an effort; prison won't do that, so this is at least worth a try.

  3. I don't think the 50 junkies are put together to trade ideas. I think they would be placed in a supervised recovery program with qualified counsellors. The ideas they'd exchange are about how to cope with life without using.

    Don't you think addicts and alcoholics can recover?

  4. As a teen my friend's daughter was sentenced to a drug diversion program. She made new connections and learned where to find cocaine more readily in "Drug Awareness" class. I guess the class was properly named.

    I think some people can and some people can't be rehabbed. I also think that there should be no drug war to begin with and it wouldn't be an issue. Theft is theft, murder is murder, if you want to shoot speedballs in your veins, go ahead, just don't ask me to pay for your medical treatment later.

    I'm a LIBERTARIAN with a BIG L, remember? You have the LIBERTY to fall on your face as much as you have the LIBERTY to succeed. And you have the LIBERTY to face the consequences of your actions.

    End the drug war and this would all be academic. I'd rather have people figuring out why most treatment programs are abysmal failures than have people deciding which one to court mandate, because none of them should be court mandated to begin with.