By Gary Fairman
Special to the Times
A courtroom is not a place where you expect to find scenes of celebration and tears of joy. Unless, of course, its drug court. This May, the Seventh Judicial District Court will join more than 3,000 such programs nationwide in celebrating National Drug Court Month. This year alone, more than 150,000 individuals nationwide who entered the justice system due to addiction will receive lifesaving treatment and the chance to repair their lives, reconnect with their families and find long-term recovery. National Drug Court Month is a celebration of the lives restored by drug court, and it sends the powerful message that these programs must be expanded to reach more people in need.
Nearly 30 years ago, the first drug court opened its doors with a simple premise: Rather than continue to allow individuals with long histories of addiction and crime to cycle through the justice system at great expense to the public, use the leverage of the court to keep them engaged in treatment long enough to be successful. Today, drug courts and other treatment courts have proven that a combination of accountability and compassion saves lives while also saving valuable resources and reducing exorbitant criminal justice costs.
The Seventh Judicial District Court Drug Court was established in 2005. Since then many men and women have entered our treatment court all of which had struggled with substance abuse for many years leading to criminal substance offenses and other related crimes. All of these individuals were facing years in prison but were given the chance to participate in our treatment court.
While in drug court some have obtained a GED or a high school diploma and some have enrolled in associate degree or professional certification programs.\ Almost all obtained full time employment, secured housing, reconnected with their families and most importantly regained control of their behavior.\ Most of the graduates are able to have their criminal cases dismissed and approximately 60% didn’t return to the criminal justice system, but are contributing to their community.
Drug court successes demonstrate why treatment courts are so critical in the effort to address addiction and related crime. And the scientific research agrees: Numerous studies have found that treatment courts reduce crime and drug use and save money. Research shows treatment courts also improve education, employment, housing, financial stability and family reunification, which reduces foster care placements.
Treatment courts represent a compassionate approach to the ravages of addiction.\ This year’s National Drug Court Month celebration should signal that the time has come to reap the economic benefits of expanding this proven budget solution to all in need.\ Anyone is welcome to attend the Seventh Judicial District Drug Court on Mondays at 3:00 p.m.\ \\