Series: Do Drug Courts Work?

Gavel statue for court

The Drug Court model.

It’s a successful specialty court model with other problem-solving courts, such as mental health and family Drug Courts, following suit and applying the same structure, which is supervision, treatment and tools necessary for recovery. In fact, there are nearly 3,000 specialty courts nationwide that help over 136,000 people.

What is Drug Court About?

The goal for Drug Court is to take a specialized treatment approach with its participants rather than incarceration, and prevent them from further substance abuse.

The Drug Court model has been in effect for 20 years, and is a vital part of a person’s court case when they must attend them. Drug Courts are available for adult and juvenile offenders.

The Prison Population and Substance Abuse in the U.S.

In the U.S., the number of people in prison is growing daily, incarcerating more people per capita than 26 of the largest European nations. Plus, 80 percent of offenders abuse alcohol or other drugs, which leads to Drug Court.

Finally, 60 to 80 percent of drug abusers in prison commits a new crime, typically drug-related, after being released from prison. And 95 percent return to drug abuse after leaving prison.

How Effective Are Drug Courts?

On the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP)’s site, Drug Courts have multiple benefits. The research comes from multiple adult Drug Courts throughout the U.S.

  • They reduce crime

75 percent of Drug Court graduates remain arrest-free from alcohol and/or drug-related crimes after leaving their program.

  • Save money

For every dollar toward Drug Court, taxpayers save money in avoided criminal justice costs. They also produce cost savings ranging from reduced prison costs, revolving-door arrests and trials.

  • Ensure compliance

Drug Courts can provide closer and more comprehensive supervision than other community-based supervision programs. They are also six times more likely to keep participants in treatment long enough for them to get better.

  • Restore families

Parents in family Drug Court are twice as likely to go to treatment and complete it.

In addition, for Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts (JDTCs), evidence is mounting with its effectiveness. In NADCP’s research, JDTCs reduce delinquency and substance abuse from its participants.

Do Drug Courts Reduce Drunk Driving?

The Drug Court model’s proven strategy reduces crimes related to substance abuse, such as drunk driving. In the U.S., when looking at the fatality data from 2015 and 2016, drunk driving deaths rose, although 2017 may reveal numbers that will stay stagnant or will even decrease. Drug Courts can reduce recidivism, which can only result in fewer drunk driving deaths.

Drug Courts and Ignition Interlocks

Other tools that work and can reduce recidivism in DUI offenders are Ignition Interlocks and portable alcohol monitoring devices. With strong drunk driving laws that include an all-offender Ignition Interlock requirement, or a portable alcohol monitoring program, or even a combination of both, states can see their roadways become safer, too.

In some states and depending on their case, DUI offenders must attend Drug Court and install an Ignition Interlock, among other requirements. These two tools can help make the roads safer throughout the U.S. and help individuals from not offending again.

In any case, with states cracking down harder on their drunk driving laws and Drug Courts continuing their mission in treating their participants, the future looks like we are taking a safer turn.

Need an Ignition Interlock?

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