Drug Courts - pg. 3

Benefits of Drug Court

Drug Courts have been proven to reduce recidivism and prevent relapses, which in turn reduces jail overcrowding. Statistical evidence and research supports the proposition that drug courts reduce criminal activity. For example, a study conducted in 1998 by the University of Utah's School of Social Work revealed that recidivism rates for local drug court graduates remained at a steady seven percent. In contrast, the US Justice Department estimates that approximately 45 percent of offenders convicted of similar charges but whom have not participated in drug court will relapse and commit another crime. This recidivism rate is even higher, at 60 percent, for offenders imprisoned for their convictions. Reduced recidivism reduces jail overcrowding.

Drug courts additionally work by saving tax-dollars. For example, drug court treatment for one offender costs approximately seven dollars per day. This is compared to the $50 dollar a day cost of incarcerating one individual in a state prison. The state of Arizona has noted significant financial benefits of the drug court program. In the year 2001, total incarceration costs avoided by Maricopa County were $129,347.40.

Drug Courts have shown significant public health benefits as well. The US Department of Justice reports that over 500 drug free babies have been delivered to female drug court participants while enrolled in the program. Programs such as alumni support groups also emphasize long-term success and give participants the tools and experience necessary to rebuild their lives.

Breaking the cycle of addiction and adopting a drug-free lifestyle has shown to reduce emergency room, hospital, and medical costs.

Drug courts also provide opportunity for education and/or vocational training. This often reduces the need for public assistance and assists the participant in developing skills for self sufficiency.

Ramifications of Substance Abuse

Drug courts were created with the intent of stopping substance abuse and related criminal activity. Drug courts are unique in the criminal justice environment because they build a close collaborative relationship between criminal justice and drug treatment professionals.

Former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell

The Costs of Substance Abuse

In the year 2000, drug abuse cost American society an estimated 160 billion dollars. More significant are the immeasurable losses that are represented by this staggering figure; the destruction of lives, the damage of addiction, fatalities from car accidents, illness, and lost opportunities and dreams.

Drug abuse drives some of America’s most costly social problems—including domestic violence, child abuse, chronic mental illness, the spread of AIDS, and homelessness. Drug treatment costs, hospitalization for long-term drug-related disease, and treatment of the consequences of family violence burden our already strapped health care system. Illicit drug users make over 527,000 costly emergency room visits each year for drug related problems.*

In 2000, there were more than 600,000 hospital emergency department drug episodes in the United States. Health care costs for drug abuse alone were about $15 billion. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 36 percent of new HIV cases are directly or indirectly linked to drug users who inject illegal substances into their bloodstream.

(Source: United States Drug Enforcement Agency)

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