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People who have a drug addiction need treatment, not jail time

If you have ever served time for a drug-related criminal offense, you probably know that many of today's jails and prisons are packed to the gills with those serving sentences for similar reasons. With the National Association of Drug Court Professionals reporting that 95 percent of all drug abusers released from prison ultimately return to drug abuse, you may wonder what, if anything, is being done to help curb the problem.

How drug courts work

Drug courts are designed to offer drug addicts alternatives to imprisonment. Though not available in all areas, the idea behind drug court is to keep an addict out of the prison system while providing the tools necessary for addiction recovery. Generally, addicts taking part in drug court are required to participate in the program for at least a year. During this time, they are closely supervised, randomly tested for substance abuse and required to take part in intensive addiction treatment and counseling services to ensure accountability. They also must typically appear in front of a judge at regular intervals so that their progress, or lack thereof, can be tracked and monitored, and they may be rewarded or sanctioned accordingly.

How drug courts make a difference

So, are drug courts effective? The answer is a resounding yes. So much so, in fact, that they are currently the single-most effective justice-intervention solution available for drug addicts today. In addition to helping drug users beat addiction, drug courts have been shown to have other positive effects on families, crime rates and state and federal finances, among other areas. Drug court participants have been shown to be far more likely to reunite with their families following treatment than those who simply serve jail sentences, and NADCP notes that the program has the potential to reduce crime by 45 percent when compared with alternative sentencing options. Additionally, NADCP reports that as much as $3.36 can be saved for every dollar spent on drug court in America, demonstrating just how much this program can benefit addicts, taxpayers and communities-at-large.

Are drug courts serving the right people?

While the positive effects of drug courts are undeniable, so is the fact that they are currently only available to a small fraction of the people who need them. Furthermore, drug courts are often filled with those facing marijuana charges, as opposed to those with more serious, life-threatening drug addictions, meaning they are not always able to benefit those who truly need them most. If you have been charged with a crime, an experienced attorney may be able to assist you in finding out whether alternatives to imprisonment exist in your area.

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Ralph E. Meczyk & Associates
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Chicago, IL 60602

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