Drug courts continue to spread to various communities all over the United States and while these offer a renewed hope for an effective way to resolve drug crime, they are also subjected to much criticism and fund cuts. This is according to a report by the New York Times.
According to a recent study, drug courts are capable of decreasing recidivism or relapse to drug-related behavior by as much as eight to ten percent on a national level. In the New York State, the reduction is recorded at up to 26 percent. The data supports the belief that these courts serve as effective tools in reducing drug addiction relapse.
In drug court, instead of sentencing a defendant found guilty of drug-related crimes to prison time, the courts order him to undergo drug addiction treatment. The concept of the drug court was first seen in action in Miami back in 1989 and since then, it has spread to over two thousand courtrooms in various states in the country.
But drug courts are also attracting much criticism from many lawyers and scholars. There are people who doubt that they can actually impact prison population mainly because of the high expense, the limitations of drug treatment and the fact that the country doesn’t have a lot of qualified judges to handle such cases. There are also those who are worried that this will further render treatment centers inaccessible as drug courts would take away the limited spots that are otherwise available for those who are actively willing to seek help for their addiction.
According to Mark Kleiman of the Drug Policy Analysis Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, the success rates that are reported from some courts may not be accurate. This is because drug courts also tend to accommodate offenders who are not necessarily suffering from addiction but are referred to treatment to avoid jail time. But participants of drug courts say that drug court is in fact more difficult than spending time in prison.
Kleiman, for his part, suggested an alternative approach. The courts could demand offenders to quit drug use through threats of jail time if they fail their urine tests. The approach, he says, was found to be successful for methamphetamine users in Hawaii.
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