Friday, April 6, 2012

Drug Court


               As a lot of us know, many people that are in our criminal justice system have drug issues.  The courts have come up with a way to help people with their drug problem and hopefully keep them from re-entering a life of crime.  What has helped many drug offenders, and hopefully continue to do so, is Drug Court.  There are around 400-600 Drug Courts operating nationwide and Illinois is a participant of that.  The first Drug Court was in Dade County, Florida in the mid 90’s.  McLean County started their first drug court in 2006.  The information in this article will focus on how McLean  County runs its Drug Court, but some of this may apply to others.

                There are some restrictions to being involved in Drug Court.  The offender must be an adult and live within McLean County, they must admit they have a drug problem, their offense must be nonviolent, and must not be actively involved in a gang.  They must also agree to go into Drug Court. For someone to be able to participate in Drug Court they do not have to necessarily have a drug charge against them but it must be something related.  Such as, a person steals money for drugs.  The purpose of this program is stop people from going in and out of prison for drug offenses.  The program lasts around twenty four months unless more time is needed.  There are three different phases that the offender must complete.  The first phase is the hardest and most intense, and it involves treatment three to five times a week along with three to seven drug screens.  As the phases continue, and the person is able to stay on the right track, they get easier.

                In order for people to graduate there are minimum requirements.  They must have stayed clean for at least nine months, fines have to be paid in full, employed or in college, must have a permanent residence and must have their GED.  The Drug Court system works a lot differently than regular court.  It seems to be more of a “home” atmosphere with the judge acting as a father would.  The clients meet with the judge once a week and have 180 days jail time hanging over their head.  When these people fail they are reprimanded, but at the same time they get encouragement and a lot of support from the judge and the others in the court.  If a person fails too many times the judge does have the right to send them to jail for 180 days.  When people succeed and do well then their meeting with the judge is almost like a celebration.  They may get certain treats such as, coupons or movie tickets, and applauding one who has done well is also very common.  When people graduate they are most likely to have the charges against them dropped or have their sentence reduced or eliminated.

                 The success rate of this specialized court is extremely high.  On a national average recidivism rates are around 10%, compared to 80% recidivism in the DOC and 50% in probation.  So that rate is excellent!  This different type of court seems to be working extremely well.  There is one downfall and that is the fact that they can only take so many people at a time.  So it is helping, but we need more of these courts!  It is much cheaper to send someone through drug court, which costs about $2,000, compared to sending someone to prison for a year, which costs about $23,000.  There are very many positives with this specialized court and hopefully we will see more of these in the future.

*For extra information on Drug Courts in Illinois visit the Attorney General of Illinois website.

Community Corrections-  Professor Randy Macak

1 comment:

  1. • Drug courts are like AA meeting but the leader is a judge. The reason I say that is, the judge is in his court room but very laid back and just wanted to talk to these people face t face to help them stay out of jail. I think it is a unique way of try but I really don't think it works. When I went to observe one many people failed the test or did not meet with their probation officer