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What are Drug Courts and How Do They Work?

What are Drug Courts and How Do They Work?

Drug courts are specialized court programs that target criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders, and parents with pending child welfare cases who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems.

The Problem

Not only are millions of Americans incarcerated for drug offenses, a high percentage of violent crimes involve the use of alcohol or other addictive substances. You would think incarceration is effective in these cases to the extent that an offender’s substance use will stop while he or she is jailed, studies show this is more often temporary than lasting—many complete their time and return to previous behavior.

Drug courts were created because the line between drug treatment and law enforcement is a hard line to negotiate. People who have committed crimes need to be held accountable. But those who have a legitimate substance abuse issue or addiction require treatment. Drug courts came about as an innovative alternative, offering rehabilitation alternatives to traditional incarceration and lighter sentences as incentive to complete treatment.

Did you know there are more than 3,000 drug courts operating in the U.S. today?

The Drug Court Model

Although drug courts vary in target, program, and resources, they are generally organized around a comprehensive model involving:

  • Offender screening and assessment of risks, needs, and response
  • Judicial interaction
  • Monitoring (e.g., drug testing) and supervision
  • Graduated sanctions and incentives
  • Treatment, rehabilitation and follow-up services

The Drug Court Team

Drug courts are usually managed by a non-adversarial and multidisciplinary team including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, corrections, social workers, and treatment service professionals. Support from stakeholders representing law enforcement, the family and the community is encouraged.

The Drug Court Aims

Drug courts are intended to:

  • Help participants recover from their substance abuse or addiction with the aim of reducing criminal recidivism.
  • Serve as an alternative to incarceration, reducing the burden and costs of repeatedly processing low‐level, non‐violent offenders through the nation’s courts, jails, and prisons, while providing offenders an opportunity to receive treatment and education.
  • Require participants to abstain from substance use, be accountable for their behavior, and fulfil their legal responsibilities.
  • Encourage defendants toward full recovery so they can lead healthy lives that do not include the types of activity that landed them in the criminal court system.

Family Treatment Drug Courts

FTDCs, alternatively known as dependency drug courts or family drug courts, use a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to serve families requiring treatment and who are involved with the child welfare system. FTDC goals include minimizing the separation of families, maximizing the chances of recovery, and instilling solid parenting skills.

Are Drug Courts Effective?

Drug courts have been operating for over 20 years, meaning it should now be possible to assess their effectiveness, determining whether there is any difference in recidivism and substance abuse.

For many observers, the jury is still out on this matter. Studies do suggest that re-arrests are lower for drug court participants than comparable non-participating drug offenders. Drug Court costs, on the other hand, are much higher than moving defendants through the traditional court system. Various figures have been suggested as a true measurement, weighing increased court costs against an overall savings realized through lower recidivism, some calculating as much as a $6,000 per offender savings.

Are Drug Courts the answer to the addiction epidemic in the U.S.? Drug Courts represent an alternative for some—and are showing some return on investment.

If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance abuse disorder, call (844) 747-7772 and speak confidentially with someone who understands. We are ready to help you take your life back.

Beat Substance Abuse or Addiction

Whether or not your substance abuse has landed you in legal troubles, whatever it threatens—your family, your career, your freedom, your life—today can be your first step towards freedom.

It’s important to recognize, substance abuse and addiction don’t happen in a vacuum. The path to recovery and wholeness involves getting to the root the problem. To get at underlying hurt and bring lasting healing takes a holistic—spirit, mind and body—approach to addiction diagnosis, management and treatment.

At Honey Lake Clinic, our experienced doctors and staff strongly believe that faith-based treatment, encompassing spiritual, physical and mental health, will help you bring spiritual power and clearer psychological understanding to your healing and recovery.

Let us help you regain control of your life. Renewal can start today with a simple phone call. Honey Lake Clinic (844) 747-7772 Email or Visit