Drug Courts Term Paper

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Drug Courts

The Department of Justice of the United States of America, in order to cope with heavy work pressure, had to introduce a separate court for the sole purpose of dealing with criminal offenses committed by drug abusers and drug dependants. This concept has proved to be so successful that other countries of the world, including Australia, are now contemplating the introduction of a separate court for dealing with the same issues of drug abuse. How did the need for such Drug Courts develop? To understand this, one must understand the different categories of drug abusers. These people can be generally categorized under two groups: the first group of people lead stable lives, out of reach of the drug criminal justice system. They are peaceful people who do not cause any disruption of societal peace and calm. The second group of people, however, is extremely disruptive and is always involved with the lower sections of society. Their lives are totally disorganized and they are permanently engaged in criminal activities.

The need for correction and punishment of such people has led to the inception of Drug Courts. These courts primarily deal with the increase of drug related crimes in the country wherein a drug user commits a crime for any purpose of his own, under the influence of drugs. The number of such drug users has also been increasing at an alarming rate and the resulting increase in incarceration has been an issue of major concern. If such criminals were to be punished, there is actually no space in the jails to house them due to the severely overcrowded conditions of such prisons. The high recidivism rates among the people who use drugs is another issue that needs to be tackled appropriately. Added to these issues is the increasing workload of the Department of Justice of the U.S.A. And the mounting negative pressure of the general public who want 'something' to be done to tackle the problem of drug abuse. 1

During the 1980's the U.S. Department of Justice dealt with the issue of drug abuse and the resultant crimes with strict sentencing and mandatory punishments. However, by the 1990's, there was severe pressure on the Court of Justice to deal with these crimes in a strict manner and mete out appropriate punishment to those who committed such crimes. To cope with this pressure and also deal with these offenders in such a way that they would not commit such crimes again within a reasonable time period, the judges began to think of new and innovative methods to deal with them. This resulted in the creation of separate courts wherein the punishment for most of these crimes was to be 'treatment' for their addictive use of drugs. One of the first Drug Courts in the U.S.A. was thus established in the 1970's with the intention of handling drug cases in a separate segregated court whereby these cases could be dealt with separately and quickly. 2

1. Tony, Makkai. Drug Courts: Issues and Prospects. Trends and Issues in Criminal Justice Retrieved at http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/tandi/ti95.pdf. Accessed on 03/24/2004

2. Tony, Makkai. Drug Courts: Issues and Prospects. Trends and Issues in Criminal Justice Retrieved at http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/tandi/ti95.pdf. Accessed on 03/24/2004

At that time, the stress was on meting out more and more severe punishments to such offenders. Since then, however, the emphasis in on meting out correctional treatments to the offenders whereby the person would have to undergo a series of treatments to cure himself of his damaging drug habit. He would be offered community support also to deal with his drug abuse. One of the first of these courts that dealt with forcible treatment for drug abusers was that of Dade County in Miami, in 1989. This court proved to set an example for other Drug Courts by its treatment of the case. The traditional 'probation officer' was not allowed to deal with the accused; instead, it was the sentencing judge himself who would deal with him. The criminal was then offered a choice of remaining within the program of treatment of his own volition, without having to adhere to its rules of participation. 3

This method of dealing with the accused brought about a change in the entire system of Drug Courts of the U.S.A. However, it must be remembered that laws in the U.S.A. may differ not only from state to state but also from county to county and therefore, each Court in each county has to deal with the problem of drug abuse in the way it deems best. In general, a Drug Court may be defined as a 'special Court' of law that has been specifically designed to deal with the judicially supervised treatment or rehabilitation of a drug abuser within the jurisdiction of a program specially made to treat such abusers so that they may become good citizens of the society. 4

3. Tony, Makkai. Drug Courts: Issues and Prospects. Trends and Issues in Criminal Justice Retrieved at http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/tandi/ti95.pdf. Accessed on 03/24/2004

4. Tony, Makkai. Drug Courts: Issues and Prospects. Trends and Issues in Criminal Justice Retrieved at http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/tandi/ti95.pdf. Accessed on 03/24/2004

Drug Courts in the U.S.A. have been created almost every week, since the inception of the first one. Statistics reveal that, as of November 26. 2002, there are about 441 Drug Courts in the U.S.A. Out of these, 505 had been very recently created, and there were about 441 more that are still in the planning stage. There may be approximately 1,387 Drug Courts in operation at the end of a few years. 'The Critical Review of Drug Courts' of 2001, a study by Belenko on the Drug Courts of the U.S.A. shows the division of the existing Drug Courts into several different categories. Some of these categories include 'adult', 'juvenile', 'family', and 'combinaton' adult and juvenile and family Drug Courts in existence in the U.S.A. As of 2001. There were about 483 adult Drug Courts, 158 juvenile, and 38 family Drug Courts. The combination Drug Courts numbered about 9. 432 more Drug Courts are still in the planning process, an important section of which is to be dedicated to 'Tribal Drug Courts'. 5

The funding for these programs initiated by the Drug Courts is borne to a large extent by the Congress (about $50 million). There has been considerable success in the inroads made into the problem of crimes committed by drug abusers, by the Drug Courts of the U.S.A. And more than 220, 000 adults, and 9,000 juveniles have managed to enroll, out of which 73,00 adults and 1,500 juveniles have graduated successfully from this program for drug abuse created as punishment by the Drug Courts. In the year 2002, a statistical report submitted by the NADCP- the National Association of Drug Court Professionals revealed that there were about 1,200 Drug Courts being planned by the U.S., revealing an increase of 7% in the growth and inception of such Drug Courts in the U.S.A. over the last two years. 6

5. International Drug Courts Developments, Models, and Effectiveness Retrieved at http://www.coe.int/t/E/Social_Cohesion/Pompidou_Group/3.Activities/4.Legal_Accessed on 03/24/2004

6. International Drug Courts Developments, Models, and Effectiveness Retrieved at http://www.coe.int/t/E/Social_Cohesion/Pompidou_Group/3.Activities/4.Legal_Accessed on 03/24/2004

The NACP is an organization that conducts meetings annually to discuss the latest issues in Drug Courts and to provide information and training to Drug Court professionals wherever needed. This association serves to educate and enlighten Drug Courts in the execution of their duties. The NACDP reveals the latest statistics about all the treatments given by the Drug Courts and their results in terms of the numbers of people who attend and graduate successfully. At the last estimate in the year 2002, the NADCP put the number of such people who enrolled as 230,000. This demonstrates the tremendous success of the implementation of these programs by the Drug Courts of the U.S.A. 7

The 'mission' or aim of a modern Drug Court can be effectively defined as a system that uses the coercive power of the country's judiciary to influence a person into curtailing and eventually stopping the abuse of drugs or alcohol, and, thereby, stopping such persons from indulging in criminal activities. The Drug Court may offer to, in exchange for a successful participation by the concerned person in a remedial program instituted by the Drug Court, dismiss the charges brought against the person, or set aside or reduce a sentencing, or even offer to reduce the penalty. The Drug Court may offer a combination of all the three as an incentive for a person to enter and graduate from this program. The traditional roles played by the AOD (alcohol and drug) treatment providers and practitioners of the criminal justice system have been changed on account of the Drug Courts. 8

7. International Drug Courts Developments, Models, and Effectiveness Retrieved at http://www.coe.int/t/E/Social_Cohesion/Pompidou_Group/3.Activities/4.Legal_Accessed on 03/24/2004

8. Background on Technology and Drug Courts. Retrieved at http://www.drugcourttech.org/background_1_2.html. Accessed on 03/24/2004

The judge is now the central figure or leader and he is in control of the accountability of the person undergoing…[continue]

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