Role of drug courts in reducing crime

Special courts like drug courts are given the task of handling cases involving offenders who are drug users. This is done through intensive legal supervision, case managing mandatory drug abuse treatment as well as drug testing. When the participants go through the program successfully, they can have their charges dropped, their sentencing reduced or set aside. These programs in the drug courts help the participants to rebuild their lives and become law-abiding citizens. There is also provision for graduated sanctions as well as gifts that are like rewards for improved cases. Participants in drug courts usually undergo long-term treatment, psychoanalysis as well as frequent sessions in court.
Success of the drug courts can only be achieved if there is maximum cooperation between the stakeholders, that is, the judges, court personnel and the people who provide treatment need to cooperate with one another in order to make sure that the program works. This was deemed necessary because the rate of crime was too much for one group to handle. From one jurisdiction to another, the drug courts usually vary. This is in terms of organization, the population they target and capacity.  At the same time they have similarities and primary goals, which include reducing the use of drugs by participants so as to reduce recidivism as well as enabling rehabilitation of drug users. There are ongoing analysis and research about how effective these drug courts are and there are indications that the special courts have a positive outcome and do manage to reduce recidivism.

The courts need to match the wants and needs of the participants and this is how the magnitude of their influence is measured. The drug courts function as an alternative to the criminal courts, something that makes its cost benefit analysis difficult. The importance of studying crime and criminal justice helps one understand how the existing crimes are altered and how to create new criminal offenses. It also helps one understand which factors pose emerging challenges, understand legal issues and also create unique research opportunities for criminal justice practitioners, scholars and policy makers.

Literature review
The US introduced special courts such as drug courts in response to the rise in the number of arrests needing special attention. According to (US Department of Justice 1997, pp 6) there was a phenomenal growth in the numbers of people incarcerated for drug offences and for that reason, formation of a court to take care of the cases was justified. The rise was specifically prominent in the period between 1984 and 1990, whose rise was estimated to be 11854 to 29306.

Florida was the first state to create a special court for drugs through the Dade Countys creation of a drug court, which was the first in the country. By the mid-1990s there were around 41 drug courts that were operational in the United States. By December 1995, there were around 82 drug courts. A number of reasons are advanced as forming basis for expecting drug courts to be more effective. According to (Blumstein, 1986), previous research has found strong links (both direct and indirect) between drug use and rates of repeat offences. In reducing drug consumption and crime, treatment has been shown to be effective. According to (Belenko, 1999), voluntary treatment programs showed lower rates of repeat offences compared to those in coerced treatment.

 The clear cut rules, intensive supervision and sanctions coupled with rewards that characterize drug courts appear to be the factors improving patient retention in the program.     The overall objective of the treatment program is to reduce the incidences of drug abuse, thereby, lowering the incidences their chances of them sliding back to crime. The practice of subjecting drug offenders to court-supervised treatment leads to lowering of drug abuse, and for that reason, it is safe to assume that the treatment they are subjected to leads to lower incidences of drug abuse and hence lower criminal activity levels. A number of reviews have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of drug court. One such review, and the most prominent of them, was conducted by (Belenko, 1999). From the review,  (Belenko, 1999) concluded that as long the drug offenders remained in the program, the drug courts would be effective.

For instance the study found the in Miami those who attended drug courts had lower levels of recidivism in comparison to those individuals who had not been handled by the drug courts. However, the study did not take into account the differences that existed between the two groups of individuals because some of those handled outside the drug courts did not have any drug related case that warranted the attention of the drug courts. Lower rates of recidivism among the participants whose offences were related to alcohol or drug abuse have been reported in some studies. But in these studies, there were considerations of the many and major differences of the participants for example the age, gender, number of offences. In addition to that it did have a follow up period.

Lack of Consistency and weaknesses in methodology are some of the characteristics that plaque drug court evaluations. Though there have been results showing that special courts like drug courts have advantages for example reducing the participants drug abuse, the time factor has not been addressed. The focus of this study would be if it costs the state more time to try all drug offenses in special courts rather than trying some of these cases in criminal courts. This is all the while putting aside the many benefits previously proven in other evaluations. The next factor to address would be are there enough drug courts to attend to this cases. If not, would it be wise to increase the number of drug courts or transfer some of these cases to the criminal courts.  In this study, it would be appropriate to have groups with the same characteristics and a follow-up period to ensure the results are accurate and consistent.


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