Drug Courts

Drug Courts & Treatment Alternatives to Incarceration

Drug Courts, Social Reintegration, and Stigmatization of Drug Users

"Although drug courts provide an alternative to the immediate incarceration of drug users, these courts are still connected to a criminal justice system that treats drug use as a crime. Therefore, when participants enter the drug courts, there is an institutionalized stigma attached to drug use.192 Drug courts perpetuate this stigma because they are based on a system of rewards and punishments. When participants act 'badly' (either by testing positive for drugs or breaking other imposed conditions that create a presumption of drug use), they are treated as pariahs, not patients.

Overview of Drug Courts and Problem Solving Courts in the United States

"In 2012, the Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) Census of Problem-Solving Courts (CPSC) counted 3,052 problem-solving courts in the United States (figure 1). The most common types of problem-solving courts were drug courts (44%) and mental health courts (11%) (figure 1). Most courts (53%) reported that they were established prior to 2005, including drug (64%), youth specialty (65%), hybrid DWI/drug (63%), and domestic violence (56%) courts.

Drug Courts Can Lead to 'Net-Widening' and Increased Arrests

"Net-widening refers to 'an expansion in the number of offenders arrested and charged after the implementation of [a drug court] because well-meaning police and prosecutors now believe there to be something worthwhile that can happen to offenders once they are in the system (i.e., treatment instead of prison).'387 When drug courts are created, police in some cities have arrested more people and prosecutors have filed more charges.388

Pre vs Post-Adjudication

(Pre vs Post-Adjudication) "Most drug courts require a guilty plea as the price of admission. When guilty pleas are required before offering treatment, drug courts become little more than conviction mills. In post-adjudication courts, the defendant must plead guilty before entering drug court, and even if he or she is successful and completes the program, the conviction will never go away.

Offenders Eligible for Drug Courts Compared with Total At-Risk Arrestee Population

"In summary, of the almost 1.5 million arrestees at risk of drug abuse or dependence, 109,921 (about 7%) met drug court eligibility requirements. Of the 109,921 eligibles, approximately half (55,364) were actually enrolled in a drug court program. In aggregate, just 3.8% of the at-risk arrestee population was treated in drug court."

Drug Courts Profoundly Alter the Traditional Functions and Adversarial Nature of the US Criminal Justice System

"In drug court, the traditional functions and adversarial nature of the U.S. justice system are profoundly altered. The judge – rather than lawyers – drives court processes and serves not as a neutral facilitator but as the leader of a 'treatment team'14 that generally consists of the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation officer and drug treatment personnel.

Drug Courts and Therapeutic Jurisprudence

"Drug courts are an application of therapeutic jurisprudence theories in which the judge does not ask whether the state has proven that a crime has been committed but instead whether the court can help to heal a perceived pathology.9 Drug courts adopted the disease model10 that posits that people struggling with drugs have a chronic disease that reduces their ability to control their behavior.11"

Comparison of Pre-Adjudication and Post-Adjudication Drug Court Models

"There are generally two models for drug courts: deferred prosecution programs and post-adjudication programs. In a deferred prosecution or diversion setting, defendants who meet certain eligibility requirements are diverted into the drug court system prior to pleading to a charge. Defendants are not required to plead guilty and those who complete the drug court program are not prosecuted further. Failure to complete the program, however, results in prosecution.

CA's Prop 36 vs. Drug Courts

"The policy in itiative was developed without the use of interventions deemed effective in other researched and evaluated initiatives such as the Drug Court model. For example, SACPA [Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000] did not use criminal justice leverage or sanctions found to be effective in Drug Courts. Consequently, retention in the SACPA and in treatment was lower than might have been anticipated. Nevertheless, on a large scale, California diverted many more people to treatment than the Drug Courts alone.

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