The Effectiveness of Drug Court in Battling Addiction Julie Tomlin ADC 210 Indiana Wesleyan University Addiction has become a huge issue in our country that our government has tried to address. With overcrowding of prisons, something needed to change. Drugs courts were created to ease the court back log, and to try to solve the drug crisis. Non-violent drug offenders are sent to rehab instead of jail. The courts are based on the “addiction as disease” model, and use AA/NA programs as part of the treatment.
While there are many benefits to drug courts, there are also drawbacks.Overall, I think that drug court results are promising, and as they are evaluated and improved, I feel that they will continue to help improve the quality of our communities. Simply incarcerating addicts was not solving the problem. Many inmates were repeat offenders. If the addicts could stop using, then maybe the crimes they committed would also decrease. The thinking was based on the fact that most of the crimes committed were due to the drug abuse itself.
For example, if a heroin addict needs a fix and is out of money, he may steal to obtain the funds to purchase the needed drugs.Take away the need for the drug, the crime ceases. Additional help would be needed.
The addicts would need to learn life skills and would need assistance in obtaining employment. This proposition was not popular at the time. Many people wanted to see these drug users put behind bars. Janet Reno was taking a risk in supporting this unpopular idea (Shavelson, 2001). The way the drug court works is that the offender, instead of being incarcerated, is placed in a treatment center and monitored by the court.There are certain objectives that the addict must achieve and maintain, such as attending AA, meeting with his probation officer, abstaining from alcohol and/or drug use (which is monitored by mandatory drug testing)and complying with the other rules of their particular rehab center.
By working with the addict closely, offering incentives and sticking with them, DTC can increase the success rate of the addict’s sobriety. DTC uses the concept of therapeutic jurisprudence, which means that the law can be a therapeutic influence on the defendant both positively and negatively (Lurigio, 2008).The court can encourage change by the way it handles the client in terms of rulings, procedures and interventions.
The court bases its treatment program on the theory of addiction as disease. The addicts are not prosecuted, but treated for their addiction, and helped to achieve sobriety and improvement of their lives. The court recognizes the nature of addiction including the recurrence of relapse. The judge and attorneys work together to help the client remain sober. DTC is voluntary and treatment focused.The court proceedings are not confrontational.
The attitude of the judge is one of mercy and grace. The judge is there to help the client with their recovery, so that they can recover and cease the criminal activity that is caused by their addiction. The client is closely supervised and a system of rewards and consequences is put in place to encourage active participation in treatment. DTC also uses other community resources to increase their success rate, such as housing, vocational and educational programs.
The DTC has been found to be effective.Studies done in Miami of its drug court program showed that participants had less cases of rearrests, were less likely to be sentenced to prison, and had fewer cases dropped ( Lurigio, 2008). These rates decreased even more the longer the client stayed in the program. Participants were also more likely to have employment than nonparticipants.
DTCs were also found to have a higher client retention rate than other drug treatment programs. Ultimately, these studies showed that overall criminal behavior and drug use are greatly reduced while clients are participating in DTC, even after graduating.With all the positive results, drug courts do have some flaws.
Some studies had comparison groups that were not adequate, while others only included those who had graduated from treatment in their numbers (Lurgio, 2008). Other critics cite the short follow-up time as a bias. Some complain about the cost, however, others report that because criminal behavior is reduced, the cost is not only offset, but provides a substantial savings to the taxpayer overall (McCollister, 2009).The most important improvement to me would be creating a system that would better match a client with a treatment program. I think that drug courts could be more effective if the protocol of evaluating the client was improved.
Because there is a high incidence of comorbidity among addicts, I believe it would be beneficial to have the client evaluated by a psychologist who is familiar with addiction. Most of the DTCs use the addiction as disease model for treatment which includes the use of Twelve Step programs such as AA or NA.Although I feel these programs are beneficial, they require abstinence. Many addicts have dual disorders and it is unreasonable to expect them to remain sober without additional treatment to address their mental disorder.
I know that providing additional treatment would increase the costs associated with DTC, however, without appropriate treatment, the addict is likely to relapse. If each client were thoroughly evaluated for mental health disorders and addiction disorders, then perhaps a more tailored program could be designed for the needs of each person.Perhaps the addicts could be assigned to a specific case manager who is trained specifically to deal with certain types of addicts with particular needs. For example, alcoholics would be assigned to the case manager trained in alcoholism. Heroin addicts would work with the person who is familiar with their needs. Someone else might work with people who have dual disorders. It may even help to break down the groups based on more specific features such as gender, age, drug of choice, mental disorders, personalities, level of motivation and willingness.
There could be a specific set of criteria and evaluation tools designed by psychologist to group the clients and assign them to the specialist that would best help them. The addict’s course of treatment would then be determined based on their individual needs. It appears to me that the drug courts approach many clients with a standard treatment process. The requirements seem to be the same for everyone. As I previously mentioned, the attendance of AA and the abstinence criteria seem to be pretty much status quo.I think it might be a benefit to include some others approaches such as contingency contracting, community reinforcement and CRT, behavioral treatment and behavioral marital therapy (Thombs, 2006).
This goes along with the idea of providing more specialized treatment options geared toward the individual. Overall, I believe that the concept of drug court is mutually beneficial to the addict as well as to the taxpayer and the community as a whole. The drug court’s goal seems to me to be one of solving the problem, and not just punishing the behavior.If an addict can get clean and stay clean, their chances of having a productive life increase. We as a community can look at the issue as a public health issue, because addiction affects all of us. If we view it this way, then we can think of the dollars spent as an investment in the health of our community. Helping addicts to stay sober, obtain housing and employment, and improve their overall lifestyle will ultimately help all of us.
The overall financial investment will pay off when violent crimes decrease as a result of drug court treatment.Other crimes will also decrease, such as robberies, drinking and driving, vandalism and truancy. There is also a savings in medical costs due to overdosing, injuries and assaults that normally occur as a result of drug and alcohol use. Another financial benefit would be that more addicts who are recovering would be able to work and therefore the need for public assistance (welfare, etc. ) would be reduced.
I think that there would be less homeless people as well. Looking at the pros and cons of drug court, I really feel that the pros far out weigh the cons. There is always room for improvement, but I think the basic idea is sound.I believe that in the fight against addiction, drug court has definitely begun to help make a difference. References Lurigio, A. J.
(2008, June). The first 20 years of drug treatment courts: A brief description of McCollister (2009, June). Costs of criminal activity for juvenile drug court participants. The Shaffer, D. K.
Ph. D. (2006) Reconsidering drug court effectiveness: A meta-analytic review. Las Shavelson L. (2001). Hooked: Five addicts challenge our misguided drug rehab system. New Thombs D.
L. (2006). Introduction to addictive behaviors (third edition) (Howard T. Blane and