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Article Summary

Drug Court Program

Drug court program is a highly specialized team process that functions within the existing Superior Court structure to address non-violent drug related cases. Their mission is to stop the abuse of alcohol and other drugs along with the related criminal activity. They are unique in the criminal justice setting because they build a close, collaborative connection between criminal justice and drug treatment professionals. Within a cooperative courtroom atmosphere the judge heads a team of court staff, attorneys, probation officers, substance abuse evaluators, and treatment professionals. They are all working together to support and monitor an individual’s recovery. Together, they maintain a critical balance of authority, supervision, support, and encouragement. A drug court program is rigorous, requiring intensive supervision based on frequent drug testing and court appearances, along with tightly structured regimens of treatment and recovery services. This level of supervision permits the program to actively support the recovery process and react swiftly to impose appropriate therapeutic sanctions or to reinstate criminal proceedings when participants cannot abide by the drug court program.

The mission is to break the "revolving door" cycle of drugs and crime. They are there to support participants in achieving total abstinence from drugs and alcohol. They do this by promoting responsibility and accountability, and by teaching participants to become productive members in the community. The drug court program is an alternative to jail and/or prison and integrates chemical dependency treatment and community resources/ancillary services with the criminal justice system.

A drug court program is described by

  • Collaborative links between the courts, prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement, treatment providers, social service agencies, and community-based non-profit organizations.
  • A standardized assessment process is utilized to identify eligible non-violent offenders.
  • Drug court teams are staffed with individuals trained in drug abuse and recovery issues who operate in a non-adversarial atmosphere.
  • Drug courts utilize a system of graduated sanctions and incentives to encourage recovery goals and hold offenders accountable for non-compliant behaviors.
  • Drug court program professionals are encouraged to remain current in the field by participating in training and education efforts on a state and national level.
  • Drug courts emphasize on-going program evaluation efforts to continually assess the effectiveness of program interventions and to update and improve program design when warranted.

Drug court program goals and benefits to the community

  • Reduces the revolving door of crime and drugs by providing treatment to drug-addicted criminal offenders.
  • Requires strict accountability from program participants through frequent in-person court hearings and intensive monitoring.
  • Requires total abstinence from illicit and illegal drugs and alcohol.
  • Reduces emergency room, hospital, and medical costs.
  • Reduces domestic violence.
  • Reduces felony and misdemeanor crimes.
  • Requires completion of education and/or vocational training.
  • Requires employment in a "W-2" tax-paying job.
  • Decreases use of public assistance.
  • Eases court, jail, and prison overcrowding and costs.

Drug court program goals and benefits to the participant

  • Stops criminal and other self-defeating behaviors.
  • Breaks the cycle of addiction.
  • Gains control of life patterns and decisions.
  • Requires accountability and responsibility for choices and actions.
  • Completes education (GED or H.S. Diploma).
  • Obtains a job/learns a skill.
  • Changes health and life skills.
  • Improves family and other relationships.
  • Changes thinking (beliefs) and behaviors.
  • Stays out of jail and/or prison.

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