May is National Drug Court Month, an event sponsored by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), and the Gwinnett County Drug and DUI Court Program celebrated on Friday, May 20, with a graduation ceremony and an address by U.S. Representative Rob Woodall of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District.
First developed over 20 years ago, drug courts have become one of the most successful strategies available for dealing with people who are facing drug charges and who are suffering from addiction. There are now at least 2,500 drug courts in operation across the United States, including the Gwinnett County program.
Drug courts are offered as a sentencing diversion program for non-violent offenders who are arrested for offenses such as DUI, drug possession or distribution that are related to their personal alcohol or drug addiction. The primary goal is to reduce recidivism by helping people with addictions get treatment so they can end a cycle of criminal behavior.
When criminal defendants agree to have their cases transferred to drug court and plead guilty to the DUI or drug charges, they enter a specialized program that is much like heavily supervised probation combined with drug treatment. Participants in the program agree to meet certain obligations to themselves, their families and society.
Participants often take part in drug treatment programs for extended periods under close supervision by the court. They are regularly and randomly tested for drug and alcohol use, and face rewards or sanctioned if they do not live up to their obligations under the program.
Drug courts are more effective than prison, probation or drug treatment alone
According to research, drug courts are more effective at preventing recidivism than imprisonment, probation without drug treatment, or mandatory drug treatment without probation. Nationwide, only 25 percent of all those who successfully complete drug court programs are arrested again later. Among all adult offenders who have been convicted and imprisoned nationwide, about 67 percent are arrested again after their release.
The NADCP estimates that drug courts save states around $13,000 for every person they serve, and the return on a state’s investment in a drug court is around $27 for every $1 invested.
“This May, all across the nation, thousands of people are graduating Drug Court with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to serving their community. This is changing the face of our justice system, not only saving lives but saving critical resources,” says the NADCP’s CEO.
“Drug Courts save money, cut crime and serve veterans. In order to truly end the cycle of substance abuse and crime, we must put a Drug Court within reach of every eligible American.”
About 28 men and women graduated from the Gwinnett County Drug and DUI Court Program on Friday. The special ceremony with Representative Woodall as speaker was held at the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center.
Source: The Weekly, “Gwinnett County Drug and DUI Court Celebrates ‘National Drug Court Month’ With Graduation Ceremony,” May 16, 2011