Drug Courts

In the U.S. history there have been conceptions about habitual intoxication and drug use as sinful conduct and disease. During the last several years it is considered maladaptive behavior(problem behavior that is learned in a control environment). Today, many argue that addiction has evolved from all three of these sources; it is a disease in which people learn to act immoral ways. Regardless of the conceptions of addictive behavior, addiction knows no race, gender, age or socio-economic background. Addiction is pervasive but it is also treatable. Addiction has become an immense burden to our society that civil commitment programs have been developed by state and federal governments to control the problem in our society. Drug courts were created to alleviate the overcrowding of prisons of non-violent drug offenders. Instead of sending drug abusers with non-violent crimes to jail, they were sent to rehabilitation programs. As with anything there are positive and negative positions but the overall outcome is what is counted and I feel that positives outweigh the negatives with drug courts.
These drug courts are advocators of community coalition building which is the grassroots response to public health problems in rural or metro communities throughout the United States. Recognizing problems in addictions that do result from characteristics on the individual but are instigated and maintained by the conditions in the community as well (Thombs, 2006). Drug courts also have come to realization of the philosophical foundation of, ???The World Health Organization???, (1998) and that is, the science and art of promoting health, preventing disease, and prolonging life through the organized efforts of society.??? The first Drug Treatment Court (DTC), was established in the United States in 1989. These courts are designed to supervise cases of drug dependent offenders who have agreed to accept treatment for their substance abuse. The DTC apply the ???learning model??? behavioral approach during treatment with operant behavior following. The treatments are exclusive, methodical, and coordinated approach to the supervision of offenders with substance abuse difficulties.
I feel the theory behind drug courts can have positive results by reducing drug use. By focusing on a one on one basis ensures success because it is more tailored to the individual. By placing drug addicts in jail will only fix the problem temporarily while the addict is incarcerated, and then most likely be back in jail. The DTC theory is to get to the root of the problem by getting the addicts in recovery by contracting for the initiation and maintenance of abstinence. Another reasoning behind DTC was that if the addict stopped using then the crimes that they committed would come to an end. Research behind drug use and crime is what fostered the DTC program. According to the OJP (2005), the FBIs Uniform Crime Reports estimated that there were 1,846,400 state and local arrests for drug abuse in the United States. According to BJS statistics, in 2004, 17 percent of state prisoners and 18 percent of federal inmates said they committed their current offense to obtain money for drugs. The link between drug use and crime has been well-documented in recent years. Many organizations and government offices, including OJP, are working to reduce substance abuse in communities across the country. In FY 2008, the federal government requested $12.9 billion to reduce drug use. If the addict could end the addiction the crimes committed would also end.
Eligible drug-addicted persons may be sent to Drug Court in lieu of traditional justice system case processing. Drug Courts keep individuals in treatment long enough for it to work, while supervising them closely. According to the NADCP (n.d.) For a minimum term of one year, participants are:
??? provided with intensive treatment and other services they require to get and stay clean and sober;
??? held accountable by the Drug Court judge for meeting their obligations to the court, society, themselves and their families;
??? regularly and randomly tested for drug use;
??? required to appear in court frequently so that the judge may review their progress; and
??? rewarded for doing well or sanctioned when they do not live up to their obligations.
Instead of being placed in jail, they are placed in a treatment center and supervised or monitored by the court. There are certain goals that the addict must achieve and maintain, such as attending AA, meeting with his probation officer, abstaining from alcohol and/or drug use (which is mandatory drug testing) and by obeying other rules of their particular rehabilitation center. When working with the addict closely, offering incentives and showing empathy towards them, DTC can increase the success rate of the addict??™s sobriety. DTC uses the concept of therapeutic jurisprudence, which means that the law can be a therapeutic influence on the defendant both positively and negatively (Lurigio, 2008). The court can encourage change by the way it handles the client in terms of rulings, procedures and interventions. The court bases its treatment program on the theory of addiction as disease. The addiction of addicts are not looked upon as immoral conduct with undeserving care and punishment, but looked at having an illness or disease that needs treatment for their addiction, in order to achieve sobriety and improve their live and the people??™s lives around them.
The DTC is well aware of the elements of addiction including relapse. Judicial members of the courts and legal representatives know the importance to keep the client drug free. The DTC is chosen voluntarily and the treatment is focused individually. The court proceedings are not confrontational and the atmosphere is welcoming. The attitude of the presiding judge over the case is one of understanding yet with a tough love approach. His role is to encourage the client towards recovery, so that they can overcome the addiction and end the criminal activity that enables their addiction. Again, the client is closely supervised and a system of rewards and consequences is put in place to encourage active participation in treatment. DTC also uses other community resources to increase their success rate, such as housing, vocational and educational programs.
The DTC has been found to be very effective. In the last 20 years since the first drug court was founded, there has been more research published on the effects of drug courts than on virtually all other criminal justice programs combined. The scientific community has put drug courts under a microscope and concluded that drug courts work. Better than jail or prison. Better than probation and treatment alone. Drug courts significantly reduce drug use and crime and are more cost-effective than any other proven criminal justice strategy. Nationwide, 75% of drug court graduates remain arrest-free at least two years after leaving the program. Rigorous studies examining long-term outcomes of individual Drug Courts have found that reductions in crime last at least 3 years and can endure for over 14 years. Drug courts also save substantial amount of money for society. Nationwide, for every $1.00 invested in Drug Court, taxpayers save as much as $3.36 in avoided criminal justice costs alone. Drug courts produce cost savings ranging from $4,000 to $12,000 per client. These cost savings reflect reduced prison costs, reduced revolving-door arrests and trials, and reduced victimization. Another fact is unless substance abusing/addicted offenders are regularly supervised by a judge and held accountable, 70% drop out of treatment prematurely. With these facts the verdict is in that criminal behavior and drug addiction are greatly reduced while clients are participating in DTC, even after graduating. NADCP (2011).
With all the positive information that the DTC saves lives and money there are some that criticize and report negative findings in the program as well. Many of the present arguments against the establishments of drug courts is related to a theoretical rise in drug users due to a less severe punishment. Much of this has been applied to the continued social stigmatization of drugs. Although some states have taken a shift in their drug policy, the stigmatization of drugs still exists. Further, although the mandatory treatment program is not as harsh as prison, it is still not an appealing punishment (Marlowe). Many critics complain about the cost that is endured, The overall costs of drug court exceeded those of probation.. Adding together costs of administration, supervision, drug and alcohol treatment, court hearings, urinalysis, and pretrial detention, it cost an average of $7,793 for a drug court graduate to successfully complete drug court compared to an average of $6,344 for an individual to successfully complete probation. The excess costs of drug court averaged $1,449 per person. Data summarized is from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. However , if one would look at the whole picture and consider that once the addict is in recovery, criminal behavior has also ended therefore cost overall is lowered resulting in not only a surplus in the county or state??™s budget but in the taxpayer??™s pocket.
I think DTC could be much more effective if the procedures of evaluating the client was more involved. By conducting testing and to either add or eliminate any other disorders can make the program an even greater success. Because there is a high occurrence of comorbidity of addicts and they don??™t seek treatment, it would be advantageous to have the client evaluated by a professional whose background is in addiction and behavioral disorders. Addicts can have disorders and to expect them to remain sober without additional treatment to address their mental disorder maybe unrealistic. By adding on these extra services will create costs, however the goal of the DTC is, promote health, preventing diseases, and prolonging life through the organized efforts of society. The DTC??™s program is pretty much a cut-out and the approach to clients with the same standard treatment process. By individualizing, one can be placed into either categories or under specific criteria needed. By segregating, it can institute other or added approaches in managing treatment, allowing a boarder reach. For example, contingency contracting efforts being applied; contracting for the initiation and maintenance of abstinence, community reinforcement and training (Thombs, 2006).
To win the war on drugs it must begin at home. If it is not conducive then one must look to others for help and get involved. I believe the DCT??™s is taking a responsibility that is needed to protect our community and public health because addiction does affect all of us. It is not only guiding the addict to recovery but it is also protecting society from the outcome of one??™s addiction such as, stealing, physical abuse, killing, etc.. The goal for everyone should be to rid addiction by seeking out prevention and healing approaches with conditions that facilitate and inhibit change in behavior.