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Majerle Chirrick Professor Gibbs English 1010 Section 12 12 September 2013 Drug Courts vs. Jail Cells In the current times we face, drastic change has been brought upon us, 50 years ago addiction to narcotic drugs would have been rare if not unheard of. And years ago, the only way to sober up would be to be thrown in a jail cell to face the charges that were brought against someone. In society today, it’s almost impossible to say that you don’t know someone who is facing the struggles of addiction; and if you don’t, it is probably because you don’t know that they do. I have personal experience where the help of drug courts helped my brother face his addiction, and acknowledge the fact that he needed help. Drug courts have been in our justice system for years. It is considered a good program of reform and a better alternative than prison. Drug courts offer substance abuse treatment as an alternative to incarceration for nonviolent felony drug offenders. All a person has to do is follow a few simple rules, and they are off the hook for jail, and on to a series of steps to better improve the quality of their lives in the real world rather than behind bars. Yet most want to do away with drug courts because we are “addicted to the courts.” Drug courts can help close family members, good friends, or strangers that have made a wrong decision make a life change through the progress of the system. Drug courts should be kept up and running in the justice system because they are a better alternative to incarceration. Drug courts are less cost effective to the taxpayer’s money, and they allow

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people to change their lives on their own rather than being reformed in a jail cell. Without the help of the drug court system, my brother would have not been able to get the help he needed to face his addiction, and would have instead faced a sentence in prison. The first drug court was established in Florida, in 1989. They were first made to reduce the population in prisons, which is still true to this day. And since then, they have spurred across the country, and other nations are beginning to adopt the concept. An article in Drug War Facts stated: “Since April 5, 2013, there were 2,383 programs currently op erating in the United States, and another 198 were being planned.”(Drug Courts and). Offenders charged on drug crimes have the choice to plead guilty and be enrolled in a drug court rather than face prison. Which proves to be a good alternative to most people. West Huddleston wrote in the Daily Journal *Los Angeles+, “The scientific community has put Drug Courts under a microscope and concluded that Drug Courts work better than jail or prison, better than probation, and better than treatment alone.” (Huddleston). Drug Courts are being proven effective every day. Although it may be easy to sober up behind bars, it isn’t as easy to be released into the world after a five to ten years sentence, and remain clean without help. To save anyone the trouble, drug court should be the first option to consider when facing trial. “In the summer of 2010, 22-year-old Georgia resident Latisha Floyd faced two options. She could go to trial for distributing a single gram of cocaine to two undercover Georgia police officers, or she could sign up for drug court. If she took her case to trial, and lost, she would face a minimum of five years in prison, and as many as 10 years. If she forfeited her right to a trial, pled guilty to the lesser charge of possession with intent to

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distribute, and entered her local drug court program, she could be spared jail altogether.”(Riggs). “Taxpayers pay ever-larger sum to support a growing corrections system.” (Cost to). But drug courts’ cost come out of the own offenders pocket. They are allowed to withhold their own job, and pay for the drug court, and if they are serious about getting reform for any crimes they have committed, they will find a way to pay for the services of the courts. Thus lessening the taxpayers’ dollars paid to keep prisoners in jail for the amount of time that coincides with their charges. If drug courts are rid of the system, the people of the states will have to use more of their tax money to pay for prisoner’s room and board , and less on things that actually have to do with them personally. Instead of being thrown in jail for allotted amount of time, depending on the seriousness of the charges, drug courts allow offenders to get clean and receive the help they need by introducing them back into the world as respectable citizens of their state, instead of criminals behind bars. Offenders able to live on their own or in a sober house, drive their own car, and withhold a job of their choice. They are able to live just like everyone else while getting the help they need to rid their addiction. This is something that would not be available to them if kept in a jail cell with prison mates. Getting the help that they desire in a community that they are more familiar with is far more beneficial than reform in purgatory with thieves and murderers. What if the offender was someone you knew closely? They could be a sibling, a parent, or a good friend, and their lives could possibly have a better chance of cleaning up and learning from their mistakes from outside sources, rather than behind barred doors. I am personally glad that they were available to my brother, because I know that he is a good person

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who made wrong choices, and that he would not get the help he needed by sharing a cell with a killer or a serious, violent criminal. The logic behind the drug court system has six main components, which are not based on the same criteria as a prison block. They include: 1. Inputs: financial, staff, equipment and other resources invested to support the program 2. Activities: structured services intended to deliver what is necessary to achieve objectives. 3. Outputs: observable and measurable events resulting from program implementation. 4. Short-Term Outcomes: immediate changes realized especially during program participation. 5. Long-Term Outcomes: changes realized after program participation. 6. External Factors: conditions outside the program that affect implementation and outcomes. (Drug Court Performance). Of course with good things comes bad reviews, and there are many going against the use of drug courts in our justice system. The Drug Policy Alliance wrote a 28-page critique on how “drug courts are not the answer.” (Sanders). Rather than drug courts help, this states that they do the opposite, they don’t improve public safety, and are not as cost effective as the alternative choice. “While appreciated by offenders and staff, no crime-reduction benefits were found compared with regular adjudication, and per-capita costs were much higher for this

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failure.”(Peele). True, drug court isn’t free, but it’s also not paid for by the public of the states, rather than out of the individual offenders’ pocket or family’s bank account. Thus taxpayers are not paying hard earned money on people to stay in solitary confinement, but rather remain in the community under strict program rules and restrictions to improve safety of others and receive the help that they need. Stanton Peele writes in the Huffington Post, “Within a year 50 percent of drug court offenders had been re-convicted and within two years 71 percent, at an average cost of nearly 18,500 pounds per order ($27,500).” (Peele). Although true in some cases, the public and government has to keep in mind that the road to recovery starts with the individual, and it won’t happen if the offender is not willing to try. Not every human is perfect and mistakes are made, which is how some got to the point of drug court in the first place. That does not mean that sobriety is impossible, it will just take some time and effort, and the help of the system of the drug courts to reform those who have lost their ways. But drug courts have been proven effective. In New York City in 2008, 5,099 defendants were referred to drug courts for evaluation. Out of those, 646 defendants agreed to participate in the program and pled guilty, and 450 participants graduated from drug court. (Statistics on Drug Courts). That is only a difference of 196 that either relapsed, committed another crime, or dropped out of the program altogether. Considering the high numbers of offenders, that was sufficient results in 2008. Although prison is an option for those in need of serious reform, it is not always considered the best option seeing as there are programs out there for that sole purpose. Drug courts have their pros and cons, but they are still a better alternative to incarceration. They give

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the offenders a chance to clean up their lives without spending years in jail depending on the seriousness of their crimes. Rather they give them a chance to be released back into their communities in order to start new, and clean up the mess they’ve made. Without drug courts in our justice system, drug addiction would be very expensive to the taxpayer and prisons would be even less effective.

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Works Cited "Cost to the Taxpayer." Right on Crime. Texas Public Policy Foundation, n.d. Web. 13 Sep 2013. “Drug Courts and Treatment Alternatives to Incarceration.” Common Sense for Drug Policy., 1998-2013. Web. 29 Sep 2013. "Drug Court perfomance measures program evaluation." National Institute of Justice. Department of Justice, 8 Jul 2013. Web. 9 Sep 2013. Huddleston, West. "Drug Courts are the Most Sensible and Proven Alternative to Incarceration: So What's the Problem?." Daily Journal. National Association of Drug Court Professionals, 22 Oct 2009. Web. 13 Sep 2013. Peele, Santon. "Drug Courts: You'd Think They Would Work." Addiction and Recovery. Huffington Post, 22 Jun 2010. Web. 13 Sep 2013. Riggs, Mike. "Want to go to Drug Court? Say goodbye to your Rights.." Reason. Reason Foundation, 17 Aug 2012. Web. 9 Sep 2013. Sanders, Eli. "The War on Drug Courts." The Strange. N.p., 17 Aug 2011. Web. 9 Sep 2013. “Statistics on Drug Courts.” Criminal Court: Drug Court Initiative, 2008. Web. 29 Sep 2013.