September 2, 2012
Drug Court vs. Incarceration
Drug addiction has increased drastically across America in the last fifty years. Non-violent drug offenders fill our jails and prisons. Taxpayer dollars are put into a prison system that is proving to be counter-productive. Recidivism rates are high. Drug Court is an alternative to incarceration that offers rehabilitation to criminal offenders. In drug court, the traditional functions of the U.S. justice system are profoundly altered. The judge is the leader of a treatment team. The judge makes all final decisions and holds a range of discretion unprecedented in the courtroom, including the type of treatment mandated and how to address relapse. In 1989, the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Miami-Dade County in Florida was the first in the nation to implement Drug Court, a diversion and treatment program for drug offenders which is overseen by the Court. “The Miami-Dade Drug Court sparked a national revolution that has forever changed our justice system. Ten years after the first Drug Court was founded, 492 Drug Courts existed. By December 31, 2010 2,633 Drug Courts were operating in every U.S. state and territory” (National Association of Drug Court Professionals, para 3). Drug Court has allowed participants an opportunity to become productive members of their communities. Although not all people agree that drug court is an effective countermeasure for incarceration, drug court offers more treatment options for a criminal offender, reducing the recidivism rates and saving taxpayers money. According to the Indiana Department of Corrections, it costs $54.28 per day to incarcerate an individual in Indiana’s penal system. This figure excludes any medical care or other costs the prisoner may incur while incarcerated. Also excluded is the cost with the arrest, prosecution, and supervision of the offender (Indiana Department of Corrections, para 1). This means that for each person who is imprisoned for a drug-related crime, it cost taxpayers a minimum of $19,323.68 a year just to provide secure housing and food. Since the drug war began in the United States in 1976, the number of people who are incarcerated has grown from less than 100 per 100,000 in 1975, to 502 per 100,000 in 2010. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world (Smith, para2). Drug court has proved to be an effective alternative to incarceration. A drug court typically consists of a multi-jurisdictional team of professionals who come together to work with drug offenders in their community. The drug court team will usually include the offender, the defense attorney, the prosecuting attorney, the judge, the probation department, and a team of drug treatment and mental health professionals. Noble County’s drug court program lasts between eighteen and forty-eight months, the duration is determined by the presiding judge. Offenders spend their time under direct and intense supervision by the probation department. Any person who is arrested for drug possession, sale of drugs, or possession of precursors are eligible to apply for this program. An offender who is arrested for a violent crime, or has a history of violence or sex crimes is not eligible to apply for the program. Applicants for the entry into the Drug Court program, have their cases examined closely by all members of the judicial team, with the presiding judge deciding whether applicant will be allowed to participate in the program. Judge Kramer, presiding judge of Noble County Drug Court Program, explains “we are trying to figure out if offender is truly an addict or just a casual user selling drugs for money” (Kramer). Once offenders are admitted into Drug Court, they must follow every recommendation of the treatment team. Some offenders are required to complete an inpatient treatment program to get through detoxification, while others are required to complete an...