What are Drug Courts?


The paths between addiction and crime are often intertwined.  Many addicts or alcoholics inadvertently partake in criminal activities, often as a result of economic hardship caused by their addiction.  A couple decades ago, law enforcement officials began to see a pattern of certain crimes and addiction.  Shortly after, drug courts were introduced as an option to help reduce recidivism rates.  Until then, any illegal activity was looked at as a criminal justice issue. As people began to recognize addiction as a disease, they realized treating the addiction rather than punishing the crime resulted in positive outcomes.

Each decade has appeared to bring a new law, which changes the way the legal system handles drug offenders.  The first and oldest are drug courts.  First established in Florida in response to the crack-cocaine epidemic, they have since been adopted in all 50 states.  Essentially, drug courts may be offered to non-violent drug offenders who meet specific criteria.  The selection methods are much more stringent, and not all drug offenders qualify for the program.  In fact, only a small fraction of the offenders who utilize proposition 36 are eligible for drug courts.  Proposition 36 was a bill passed into action in California in 2000, which allowed offenders to seek treatment rather than incarceration for their crime.

The differences between drug courts and proposition 36 can often be confused, especially because each proposal that is passed seems the undermine the prior one in place.  However, the use of drug courts still seems to be one of the most effective measures in treating addiction and reducing criminal recidivism rates.  While proposition 36 is required to be available to all non-violent drug offenders who meet a specific criteria, drug courts have a more specific selection criteria.  In addition to an individual’s crime being non-violent, the severity of their addiction, treatment motivation, prior treatment outcomes, and, of course, their criminal record are taken into account.  

Drug courts are also much more strict about people straying from what they’re supposed to be doing.  Offenders are judicially monitored and randomly drug tested to ensure program compliance.  If an individual is not withholding their end of the deal, they may be incarcerated for brief periods for not complying with the terms they initially agreed upon.  Due to the strict selection methods for drug courts, they often have positive outcomes, with participants considered to be reformed.  Addiction is not a crime, and therefore should not be treated as one.  Drug courts have the right idea of treating the addiction rather than punishing the crime.

If you are struggling with addiction, understand this: you are not a bad person in need of becoming ‘good’. You are struggling with a sickness and you need to become well. Recovery is the answer. The answer to recovery is Simple. Our multi-tiered program is designed to help your loved one find success on a new path in life through school, work, and meaningful volunteering. Structured for progress, clients at Simple Recovery transition seamlessly through each phase of their recovery. For information on our full continuum of care options for recovery from addiction and co-occurring mental health, call us today: 888-743-0490