Drug Courts

AuthorJeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 22

A special court with jurisdiction over cases involving drug-using offenders. Drug courts are treatmentbased alternatives to prisons, youth-detention facilities, jails, and PROBATION. These courts make extensive use of comprehensive supervision, drug testing, treatment services, immediate sanctions, and incentives.

Drug courts concentrate the efforts of judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, substance-abuse treatment specialists, probation officers, law enforcement and correctional personnel, educational and vocational experts, community leaders, and others on individuals who are charged with illicit drug abuse. The criminal justice system works cooperatively with treatment systems and others to provide an offender with the necessary tools to get into recovery, stay in recovery, and lead a productive, crime-free life.

The drug court acts to help the offender change his or her life in order to stop criminal activity, rather than focusing only on punishment of the offender. Drug courts also help to provide consistent responses to drug offenses among the judiciary, and they can foster coordination between intervention agencies and resources, thus increasing the cost-effectiveness of drug-intervention programs. Successful completion of the drug court's treatment or intervention regimen usually results in the dismissal of drug charges, shortened or suspended sentences, or a combination of these. Participants acquire the wherewithal to rebuild their lives.

In 1989, the nation's first drug court was established in Miami, Florida. Circuit Court Judge Herbert M. Klein had become troubled by the negative effects of drug offenses on Dade County. He became determined to address the problem caused by widespread drug use. This first drug court became a model program for the nation.

Drug courts that followed the Miami model essentially began as diversionary programs that dealt with non-violent offenders. These subjects typically were charged with relatively minor offenses, such as simple drug possession or charges of driving under the influence.

At first, drug courts were geared toward adult populations. The successes of adult drug courts in intervention and in changing the lives of adult offenders prompted juvenile courts to establish similar drug court programs aimed at juvenile offenders. Juvenile drug courts likewise have proven successful, and now many jurisdictions include family drug courts that...

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