Michigan is a leader in the rise of alternative drug courts in the United States. These courts give people struggling with drug addiction the chance to avoid jail or prison and get help for their health problem. But do they really work?
First, let’s briefly discuss how drug court works. Instead of charging someone with a drug crime like possession with intent to distribute, the court diverts the case to a drug court program. Typically, this program involves addiction treatment and case management. The participant must submit to regular drug testing, supervision and court hearings on their progress. If the participant complies with the program’s terms, the court will dismiss the original charge, and the participant is hopefully ready to live a productive, drug-free life.
What are the results?
Though the first drug court appeared in the U.S. back in 1989, researching their effectiveness is challenging because every state that uses drug courts has a different system. Still, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals says:
- 75 percent of graduates do not get arrested for at least two years after completing the program
- Drug courts are six times more likely to keep someone in addiction treatment long enough for it to be effective
- Left unsupervised, 70 percent of drug addicts will drop out of treatment before they are ready
- Drug courts save the criminal justice system an estimated $3,000 – $13,000 per participant in incarceration, arrest and victimization costs
Some critics say that rehabilitation tends to work only when an addict recognizes that they need help and enters into it voluntarily — not forced to by a court that regularly supervises them to make sure they are following through. But experts dispute this. They say that the prospect of avoiding jail is often enough motivation to keep an addict in a program.
Is drug court right for you?
Drug court might be an option for you if you are facing drug-related charges. This can be something for you to discuss with your defense attorney.