October 13, 2009

Keep drug courts -- they're effective

by Dr. Douglas Marlowe, Chief of Science, Law and Policy, NADCP

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers chooses to attack our nation's most successful justice intervention for substance abusing offenders: drug courts (Cynthia Orr, Sept. 29 Other Views column, Rethink how we fight drugs).

It minimizes the impact of drug courts like the one in Miami-Dade, which has restored more than 12,000 lives and reunited tens of thousands of family members. NACDL only begrudgingly accepts drug courts as an interim improvement over the war on drugs until decriminalization is accomplished.

Two decades of research have proven that drug courts reduce crime, reduce drug abuse and save considerable money for taxpayers. The most conservative estimate is that every $1 invested in drug courts reaps between $2 to $3 in direct cost-savings to society.

Between 50 percent and 80 percent of all crimes are committed by substance abusers. NACDL'S assertion that drug courts are only treating low-level offenders is patently false. The majority of drug courts now treat serious offenders who have failed repeatedly in treatment and other dispositions.

NACDL recommends that drug courts treat high-risk offenders who would otherwise be in jail or prison bound in programs that do not require a guilty plea for entry.

But this would mean that serious and potentially violent offenders would face no legal repercussions whatsoever if they failed to complete treatment or even to attend it. When we consider the safety of our communities such recommendations cannot be taken seriously.

 

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