Juvenile Drug Courts

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Drug Courts came about as a result of a backlogged court system and a steady, rapidly increasing prison population. Drug courts are a form of diversion that helps the offender through rehabilitation and the community through an increased sense of protection, which serves the best interest of everyone. Drug Courts are community based intermediate sanctions that incorporate treatment principles into the Criminal Justice System and divert drug offenders from traditional punishments of probation and prison. The objective of drug courts programs is to treat the underlying problems of addiction among drug offenders and eliminate participants’ future drug use and crime. Drug courts came about as a result of the 1980’s “war on drugs” where all levels of government came together to crack down on an epidemic of crack-cocaine use that had society believing that drugs were the main problem of the criminal justice system. Courts on state and federal levels were burdened and overloaded with drug cases. As a result, prison populations began to rise at an amazing rate. According to statistics, “the number of adults arrested for drug-related violations increased 27.3% between 1980 and 1995, in the same period, the percentage of prisoners in the custody of state correctional authorities for drug offenses increased from 6.4% to 22.7%”. With this rate of increase in drug offenses going through the courts system, something had to be done to manage the large number of cases that were drug-related. In the beginning, drug courts were only used to lighten the overcrowding in the court system. They did not help to treat the offender or the offender’s addictions. In 1989, Janet Reno and Timothy Murray began a drug court program in Dade County, Florida that became a prototype for the nation. This program along with many other drug programs consists of cooperation between the judiciary, the district attorney, the public defender, probation officers, the police department, and the community. Over the past decade drug courts have caught on immensely and now maintain decent status. These specialized courts were designed to make the processing of drug cases easier. They also were designed to help the offender by requiring treatment as part of the court supervised program. As of now almost every state has a drug court system. In June 2001, there were a total of 697 drug court... ... middle of paper ... ...have shown that they benefit society greatly but drug courts do cause juveniles who may have been overlooked otherwise to be put into programs and do widen the net. Drug courts seem to be our best tool for managing the more serious offender who has the most obstacles to overcome to be successful. Participants who are not truly addicted tend to be terminated from the program. Because drug courts use judicial and therapeutic methods in dealing with substance abusing juveniles at the front end of the criminal justice system they have become increasingly popular. With these specialized courts in almost every state they have become a driving force behind diversion as an alternative. Although these policies are new they are highly regarded because they demand hard work in treatment, frequent drug testing and regular court appearances, are less susceptible than other treatment programs to being dismissed as soft on crime and are therefore more politically acceptable. Drug courts have shown a positive effect on juveniles and the community. Works Cited: Trotter, Joseph A. JPO. October 12, 2003. www.american.edu Journal Article: Substance use and misuse. Volume 37, Issue 12-13.

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