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Drug Courts Are Highly Successful, But ...

May 15, 2009
by Gary Enos
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The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) today held an early-morning press conference in Miami to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a movement that started in Dade County and has seen formidable growth. At today's event, former ONDCP director Gen. Barry McCaffrey was expected to call for enough drug court programs so that one would be within reach of every American in need. Over the course of the day, drug court program participants in 33 states were to be named graduates, in ceremonies filled with family pride as well as more than a few pats on the back for policy-makers who embrace the drug court's tough but treatment-focused model. The impact of drug courts on the justice and treatment systems over the past two decades cannot be diminished. But today's events also make me wonder: Shouldn't prominent, respected leaders in drug treatment and policy extend McCaffrey's argument and simply call for an available treatment slot for anyone who needs it, regardless of whether the person ever has had contact with law enforcement and the courts? And if the nation could muster the will to do that, would we need a drug court around every corner?



Drug Courts were established for non-violent, first time offenders (of course, with some mitigating circumstances). If every offender was allowed into the Drug Court, the treatment process would not be efficient. The treatment process is most effective for that type of offender. Rather than looking to expand Drug Courts "around every corner," a more indebth analysis needs to be conducted on the racial demograph of those who are allowed in. Through my studies, I have determined that a high population count of white's make up the Drug Court (at least unequal to the proportion of the societal population).

The drugs have grown into a self promoting industry and they are a travesty - truly injustice. If treatment is needed, why force someone to plead guilty to a felony to get treatment. Then, once the defendant has been coerced into a plea to get help, provide the treatment needed. The failure to provide the appropriate treatment should be grounds for granting a post conviction relief petition. How do the drug court people look in the mirror?

Until we as a society have come to grips with the realities that chemical dependency is a chronic progressive brain disorder and that the war on drugs has failed miserably, we continue to have these muddy waters around defining addiction versus criminality.

I for one having witnessed the tremendous success of the drug courts as well as alternative to discipline programs for health care professionals with CD really can't come up with a reasoable arguement against either concept. One concern of course is appropriate candidate ion which includes keeping most violent offenders within the confines of the usual criminal justice programs.

One very simple answer that of course comes with it's own set of worrisome issues is to just decriminalize personal use of illicit substances.

In my area, Drug Court Treatment Programs are influences by a lot of bias and judges do not accept the treatment, disease concept at all. It is an injustice to those clients that have already made significant lifestyle adjustments and only meet criteria for a lower state approved treatment than Drug Court. Also, many of these Drug Courts are monopolized by one provider that may not be a licensed clinical specialist. (But then the judges don't care about that anyway.

A person could end up with a more balanced outlook regarding drug courts after reading all these comments!

Gary Enos


Gary Enos


Gary A. Enos has been the editor of Addiction Professional since its inception. He also...

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