Monday, March 11, 2002

how effective are drug courts?
Delaware was one of the first states in the country to have a drug court program. The focus of such a program is prevention, and rehabilitation rather than punishment. Successful completion of Drug Court can mean that a person can apply to have their charges expunged, and emerge with a clean record.

The Attorney General's Office has to decide whether a person should be offered the opportunity to take part in Drug Court. There are a number of things that they look for involving the offense in question, and the person charged with the offense.

So, how effective are Drug Courts? The Office of Justice Programs, from the federal government released the results of a study called: "Looking at a Decade of Drug Courts," back in 1998, which showed some remarkable results:
Unlike traditional treatment programs, becoming –clean and sober” is only the first step toward drug court graduation. Almost all drug courts require participants (after they have become clean and sober) to obtain a GED, maintain employment, be current in all financial obligations, including drug court fees and child support payments, if applicable, and to have a sponsor in the community. Many programs also require participants to perform community service hours -- to give back to the community that is supporting them through the drug court program. One drug court requires prospective graduates to prepare a two year –life plan” following drug court graduation for discussion with a community board to assure the court that the participant has developed the –tools” to lead a drug-free and crime-free life.

The original goals for drug courts -- reductions in recidivism and drug usage -- are being achieved, with recidivism rates substantially reduced for graduates and, to a lesser but significant degree, for participants who do not graduate as well. Drug usage rates for defendants while they are participating in the drug court, measured by the frequent, random urinalyses required of all participants, are also substantially reduced, generally to well under 10%, dramatically below that observed for nondrug court offenders.

The "outcomes” drug courts are achieving go far beyond these original goals, however: the birth of over 500 drug free babies to drug court participants; the reunification of hundreds of families, as parents regain or are able to retain custody of their children; education and vocational training and job placements for participants, to name a few. Most significantly, many of the judges who have served as the "drug court” judge have requested an extension of their assignment, and many have taken on the drug court duty in addition to their other docket responsibilities.
In addition, the costs of drug court supervision is substantially less than of incarceration, and of a hospital stay within a prison.

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