National Association of Drug Court Professionals Applauds Justice Department Smart on Crime Initiative; Calls for Federal Drug Court Expansion


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


ALEXANDRIA, Va., Aug. 12, 2013
-- Today, Attorney General Eric Holder outlined new Justice Department initiatives aimed at reducing the U.S. Prison population, including easing federal mandatory minimums for some drug offenders. With federal prisons operating at nearly 40 percent above capacity, the Drug Court model offers a proven solution for diverting non-violent, non-drug dealing, and seriously addicted offenders into treatment instead of putting them behind bars.

State Drug Courts are now recognized as the most successful alternative to incarceration for seriously drug addicted offenders in our nation's history. U.S. District Court Judge Keith Starrett currently presides over one of the first federal Drug/Reentry Courts in the United States and serves as the Chairman of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Board of Directors. Judge Starrett founded the first felony Drug Court in Mississippi which he presided over before being appointed U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Mississippi by President George W. Bush in 2005. "I am encouraged by today's announcement by the Attorney General," he said. "The initiatives he outlined open the door for federal courts to further implement evidence based practices and other alternatives, such as Drug Courts. As we have demonstrated in Mississippi, the Drug Court model can be applied in the federal system to ensure that federally charged offenders have the same opportunity to receive treatment and avoid incarceration."

In Judge Starrett's program, the Drug Court model is applied to federally charged defendants who meet a clinical need for drug treatment. Participants are given the opportunity to participate in a Drug Court track and possibly avoid incarceration in the Federal Bureau of Prisons by pleading guilty to their charge. "Our program is able to hold them accountable for their actions and respond swiftly and appropriately whether they are non-compliant or are doing well. This combination of treatment and judicial accountability gives them the structure they need to permanently change their behavior," Starrett said. "As federal prosecutors across the country receive new guidelines from the Attorney General, we must ensure that they have programs like this in place to appropriately divert offenders who would be best served by treatment."

The Department of Justice has shown support for the federal expansion of Drug Courts. The Smart on Crime report released today in conjunction with the Attorney General's remarks calls for federal law enforcement to encourage this approach. The report states: "In appropriate instances involving non-violent offenses, prosecutors ought to consider alternatives to incarceration, such as drug courts, specialty courts, or other diversion programs. Accordingly, the Department will issue a "best practices" memorandum to U.S. Attorney Offices encouraging more widespread adoption of these diversion policies when appropriate."

There are now over 2,700 Drug Courts in the United States serving 135,000 people a year. Research shows that 75% of people who complete Drug Courts are never arrested again, and Drug Courts save up to $27 for every $1 invested.