Drug Court Offers Non-Violent Offenders A Chance To Regain Their Lives
Each Monday afternoon, the Genesee County Adult Felony Drug Court is in session. The room is filled with people who are struggling with substance abuse, sometimes for years. The Court is held in a district courtroom in downtown Flint, Michigan, and helps non-violent felony drug offenders, such as Scott Daup, recover.
As reported by MLive, Daup, 37, has battled addiction for almost 20 years, since be began using marijuana as a teenager. Unfortunately, drug use didn’t end there, and eventually, he graduated to more dangerous and addictive drugs such as prescription painkillers and heroin.
On October 23, the presiding Judge Mark Latchana, who believes it’s more effective to treat drug offenders than to imprison them, asked Daup to reflect his fight for recovery. Daup said:
“Today, I’m not allowing my past to dictate my future or present. This is a big accomplishment for me.”
A drug court is a form of probation, in which drug offenders like Daup receive an intensive program of drug tests and counseling sessions. Daup was convicted of two charges – heroin and cocaine possession.
Drug court participants are required to attend meetings with probation officers, and the program typically lasts for 1-2 years. People who complete the program may have their drug charges dismissed and sentences reduced.
You see, these courts are not really looking to punish these offenders – rather, drug court workers focus on treatment and recovery. For example, participants won’t be eliminated from the program if they occasionally miss meetings or if they fail one drug test, as long as they continue to appear dedicated to their recovery.
But participants are monitored closely, and if someone seems to be struggling but trying, court workers continue trying to help them.
According to a 2016 report from the State Court Administrative Office, offenders who graduate from a drug court in Michigan are only one-third as likely to offend again within two years as those who don’t participate in these programs. Rates of recidivism after four years also remain much lower.
The drug courts also help offenders contribute to society – nearly two-thirds are employed upon graduation, but only 4% enter the court with jobs.
Drug courts are also less expensive than incarceration, as the program is funded by Michigan state grants and fees paid by the offenders themselves. In the past five years, 115 participants have graduated.
More About Drug Courts
According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), Michigan has a total of 141 drug courts, which include adult, juvenile, family, and designated DWI, among others. You can view an inactive map of the entire U.S. here.
The U.S. Department of Justice states there are approximately 3,100 drug courts nationwide, half of which are designated for adults.
Adult drug courts use a program developed to reduce drug abuse, relapse, and recidivism among offenders through the employment of “risk and needs assessment, judicial interaction, monitoring and supervision, graduated sanctions and incentives, treatment, and various rehabilitation services.”
Juvenile drug courts use a similar approach that is customized to the needs of youth who engage in substance abuse, and offers youth and their families “counseling, education, and other services to promote immediate intervention, treatment, and structure…” They also help to “improve level of functioning” and “address problems that may contribute to drug use.”
Family drug courts focus on “treatment for parents with substance use disorders to aid in the reunification and stabilization of families affected by parental drug
NADCP reports the following statistics nationwide:
Three-quarters of drug court graduates remain “arrest-free” at least two years after completing the program. Intensive studies that have examined the long-term outcomes of drug courts have concluded that this reduction in crime lasts at least three years and can endure for more than 14.
Also, even the most rigorous and “conservative” meta-analyses have all concluded that drug courts reduce crime up to 45% more than other sentencing options.
And nationally, every $1.00 invested in a drug court saves the taxpayers an estimated $3.36 in criminal justice costs that are avoided. When you consider other costs that are offset, such as reductions in victimization and healthcare, research has shown that benefits may be up to $27 for each $1 invested in drug court.
Regarding compliance, drug courts offer more intense and closer supervision than other supervision programs that are community-based and are six times more likely to keep participants in treatment long enough for them to recover.
Parents who participate in family drug court are twice as likely to enter treatment and graduate, and their children spend much less time in out-of-home placements, such as foster care.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology