Despite the rampant scientific evidence supporting that addiction is a treatable condition of the brain, numerous individuals still do not get treatment. As a result, many illegal substances continue to be abused on a widespread scale across the globe. This has led to a phenomenon where countries such as the United States of America have approximately 19.7million American adults battling with a substance disorder. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 8.5 million American adults suffer from both mental disorder and substance abuse addiction or co-occurring disorders. Therefore, with such a huge threat to humanity, there is a need to come up with effective and efficient intervention approaches. Criminal justice system is one of them and it has been used for a long time in many countries, especially those in the Asian region. In this article, we are going to focus on the role of the criminal justice system in addressing substance addiction through drug courts.
What is a Drug Court?
In the contemporary world, emerging neuroscience has been able to show its potential in the transformation of traditional sanction-oriented safety approaches through the provision of therapeutic strategies in the fight against drug and substance addiction. A key strategy has been the integration of drug treatment systems with criminal justice through the use of drug courts. All stakeholders, especially the addicts, have hence been able to reap immensely from the benefits of drug courts (check on Addiction Resource) . By definition, drug courts are specialized programs whose major targets are the criminal defendants, juvenile offenders or parents that have pending child welfare cases and might be dealing with drug dependency problems. In the United States of America, the estimated number of drug courts as of 2015 was 3000. These courts mainly targeted adults, a growing number of veterans, child welfare as well as cases of driving while intoxicated. As the perfect alternative to incarceration, these institutions have a high tendency to reduce the substance dependency burden. With such information, it is now important to address the question whether “do drug courts really work?”
Research emanating from the last 2 decades has consistently exhibited numerous beneficial effects of treatment for addictions through criminal justice system. While there are many alternatives to incarceration, treatment that is merged with effective judicial oversight through drug courts has been deemed the best. Actually, many studies done on mental health courts pros and cons have always seen the merits prevailing in all the instances especially when compared to the prison-based system.
Drug courts will typically comprise of treatment, 12-step meetings, individual therapy, court appearances, and random urinalysis. The court also obliges individuals to get a form of employment or alternatively complete volunteer work during treatment. The treatment programs last between six months to one year. In this period, recovering addicts periodically appear before a judge who reviews their progress. Those that show improvements get rewarded while those who do not fulfill the program obligations get punished. These institutions are ideal for recovering addicts as they help in breaking the cycle of re-use and re-offense especially in cases of incarceration that does not come with treatment. Instead of imprisoning drug offenders or addicts, the programs give them a fresh opportunity, not only to understand the pros and cons of drug abuse, but also to participate in evidence-based rehabilitation.
Benefiting the Community at Large
Drug courts have been implemented in both local and state governments in recent times due to their increased benefits. According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), addicts attending treatment courts are six times more likely to stay in the program for a long time and hence get improved health. Furthermore, these courts are cheaper to implement as compared to incarceration efforts. This leads to a lot of money being saved which can be diverted to other developmental activities. The society also reaps from the boosted productivity of recovered addicts through their new ability to pay taxes as well as take care of their families.
Are Drug Courts Cost Effective to Recovering Addicts?
The drug courts have been dubbed a quiet revolution in the criminal justice system. The reason for this is that economic analysis shows the high cost-effectiveness of treating drug-involved offenders. In the United States, for instance, the average cost of incarceration is $22000 monthly. This is with little to no evidence in some cases on the ability of the strategy to reduce drug-related re-incarceration rates for the non-violent offenders or even general substance addiction. These costs are huge in the long run as compared to a comprehensive drug court program that will only cost $4000 annually on average. The drug courts also free-up jail space obliged for violent and long-term offenders. Basically, the court system seems to be more favorable, although there is a need to research further on the pros and cons of the juvenile justice system vis-à-vis the incarceration approach.
Facilities Offered mental health courts pros and cons
A common barrier that arises in mental health courts is the shortage of treatment facilities as well as other support services. This is the main case particularly in many rural drug courts which in most of the times lack the access to efficient wrap-around services or even proper training for the drug court staff. However, most rural facilities will benefit from the increased government, society, and even religious support in some areas.
The Bottom Line
The above indicates that effective integration of drug treatment interventions into criminal justice can be ideal in dealing with addiction cases. This is because, in addition to addressing the physical effects of drug abuse, those in recovery also get chances to rewire their thought patterns. As a result, abstinence is sustained due to the high levels of service-coordination, added accountability, and evidence-based treatment in the institutions. Various stakeholders such as the family, society or even government are provided with the means to work together towards the recovery of the affected individual while at the same time guarding public safety. Drug courts offer a perfect alternative to the traditional frameworks of incarceration as they provide a complete transformation on drug substance addicts.
About the Author
John Adkins is a professional writer and volunteer who deals with issues of mental health, addiction, and life in recovery. Also, he works with a foundation that helps drug addicts, so he has a clear insight into their problems. John is currently a writer for Addiction Resource.