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The Effects of Drug Court

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 2662 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Drug court was developed in Florida during the late 1980s because incarceration rates were extremely high among individuals arrested for drug-related crimes (Rigg, 2017). Addiction has been a problem in America for decades due to the effects substance abuse has on an individual. Drugs continue to keep getting stronger resulting in substance abuse issues for people using them. When an individual becomes addicted, they will do anything to get their drugs even if it means breaking the law and committing several crimes. Nonetheless, being in possession of drugs is a felony in itself however, the people who are using them do not think about the consequences while they are in active addiction. Moreover, being addicted to drugs can make it more inevitable to lead to a criminal record. On the contrary, having a criminal record can make it very difficult to find jobs and housing. Drug court is known as a sentencing alternative to treatment rather than prison for individuals who have nonviolent drug-related offenses. People who participate in drug court have to plead guilty to their charges, but the charges are temporarily suspended as long as the participants comply with the requirements of the program (Taylor, 2012). Not only is drug court a deterrent to committing crimes it helps to rehabilitate drug related offenders by making them productive members to society. Once drug court is completed most of these offenders charges are dropped down to misdemeanors or even forgotten altogether. However, many individuals who could benefit from drug court are not accepted into the program which can most likely cause a barrier in sentencing and the start of institualization. There are many factors that are put into consideration when accepting or denying an individual to the drug court program. Most people are denied if they have past convictions of same or similar offenses making the individual a liability by allowing them in the program (Reuter,2013) However, only a select few have received chances when it came to past convictions. Drug court is not easy however, it does help people recover from active addiction by learning to trust the process and the court system. This research project will help show how consequences can better an individual’s future through an alternative of incarceration. How does drug court help individuals recover from drug addiction? The researcher hypothesizes that drug court will hold people accountable, use treatment programs to achieve rehabilitation, and decrease recidivism. When an offender is incarcerated for drug related crimes with no rehabilitation that offender will most likely get out and commit other crimes, because of the control drugs have among an individual. Therefore, by placing the individuals in a program to get the help they need such as, drug court there would be less reoffending and more people recovering from addiction.

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Drug court is a program to help offenders who have been charged with drug crimes to receive the help they need along with reducing jail and prison population. All participants are required to take drug tests weekly, attend twelve step meetings, and obey treatment plans. Once the treatment requirement is fulfilled, they move to a new phase within the program which makes them closer to graduation (Taylor 2013). Nonetheless, being held accountable will help an offender take control of their life. When an individual is held accountable, they are in charge of their actions. Being eligible for drug court can help save a person’s life from a world of crime due to an addiction. These participants avoid jail time and the ability to have their charges dropped as if it never happened. Moreover, there are four phases in the drug court program, once an individual completes the last phase, they successfully graduate the program. When graduation occurs the individuals, charges are dropped and most of the time expunged from their record. If termination from the program occurs the judge will sentence them to jail or prison to serve their sentence (Taylor, 2013). However, it takes several sanctions to be terminated from the program. Sanctions occur when a participant fails to follow their treatment plan by using drugs and failing a drug test. These court professionals understand certain individuals will relapse at some point and they are there to help them get the help they need to be successful in the program. Relapse is a part of recovery when dealing with addiction that’s why it happens. However, it is completely up to the individual to fix the problem that led them to relapse, by being accountable can make them be successful in the future. Nonetheless, one bad situation should not have to be what ruins someone’s life. Drug court is not meant to be easy however, many individuals have graduated the program. Drug court is an alternative of sentencing for drug crimes with this program people who are successful do not need to serve any jail time however, they do have to follow the rules of the program which can be a well enough influence to staying clean. Drug courts consist of drug treatment, monitoring by the courts (probation), regular drug testing, and the use of sanctions for program noncompliance (Reuter, 2019). Drug test are a big part of the program since people are to abstain from the use of drugs, by monitoring these tests it is the best way to know if people are following the program rules. These drug tests are random every week, some individuals are put on a color code system. These systems insist of being told a color, having to call a number to see if that color was called for the day. If so, an individual has a certain amount of time in the day to take the urine sample. Not only does urine analyses hold people accountable it gives them a way to speak up before they get caught. Many addicts are never held accountable while in active addiction so teaching them other ways can better their future and completion rates. Drug court can be a hard task for the courts since most of the participants are used to negative influences and bad behaviors. Therefore, trying to positively influence a different behavior for a population that is not easy to treat can be very difficult. “The objective is to persuade offenders who are by definition impulsive and resistant to acknowledge their addiction and its control over their lives, to begin reconciling past behaviors, and to comply with restrictive legal supervision (Daigle,2019)”. Furthermore, if an individual fails a urine analysis, they are held accountable through their test results so the best thing for that individual to do is be honest. Which will most likely result in receiving a sanction which usually insist of spending a couple days in jail or revisiting a treatment program. Sanctions represent accountability for people to know the importance of changing a behavior through modification (Daigle,2019). Moreover, failing a urine analysis is considered being non-compliant which could possibly terminate a participant. However, most of the people who are in drug court at one point had a problem with drugs and alcohol so keeping them accountable could install different outcomes.

Treatment programs help rehabilitate individuals who were once in active addiction fighting to find themselves through relapse prevention. Treatment programs help with the therapy aspect of the behavior when it comes to the negative behavior, they participated in while becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. Nonetheless, addiction is a fragmentation of mental health hence, they go hand and hand. When an individual uses substance it has the ability to mess with the chemical imbalance in the brain effecting dopamine levels therefore, inducing mental health issues and co- occurring conditions such as; depression or anxiety. Treatment just doesn’t focus on relapse prevention it also, helps with maintaining mental health through behavioral therapy and medication management. Moreover, treatment plans are set in place to help each individual stay clean. Therefore, being something that they must follow, Therefore, drug court participants receive treatment plans they must obey by which could include attending twelve step meetings, outpatient or inpatient treatment programs, maintain mental health, medications, and forms of therapy. Twelve step meetings are available to help each individual stay clean by meeting new people and building a foundation surrounded by positive influences. In addition, treatment programs are exceptional for changing a negative behavior into something positive through relapse prevention for individuals who had a problem and were unmanageable due to their addiction. Furthermore, by getting help through treatment programs made it possible to help manage what they’re downfall was by setting up a plan to prevent that from happening again. Treatment has been known to reduce drug use by rehabilitation. “Studies have shown that the people who attended a treatment program had a better success rate on staying clean then an individual who did not go to treatment at all (Taylor, 2019). Rehabilitation is the major role into abstaining from drugs along with reducing crime. Each individual in drug court are held responsible for their commitment to the program, weekly appearances in front of the judge, drug testing, and participation with treatment plans (Rigg 2017). Drug treatment programs can be very successful for most people due to the underlying issue that got them addicted to begin with. In addition, treatment programs are usually court ordered especially in Drug Court which has a higher success rate because they are mandated to doing so. Many individuals arrested for drug related crimes either receive a treatment program, drug court, or worst-case scenario incarceration. Most people do not want to be incarcerated therefore, being forced into treatment programs. However, treatment programs are most important to helping an individual abstain from all substances. “Recent research confirms that legally mandating treatment tends to lower dropout rates, reduce illicit drug use, and criminal offending (Taylor, 2012)”. Moreover, treatment is the major role of rehabilitation because an individual will learn the tools, they need to stay clean. Nonetheless, being forced to go to treatment can be what an individual needs to get the help they need by changing a negative behavior. Receiving therapy through treatment can change a behavior and make people productive members to society by reducing drug use. What makes treatment effective is the ability to focus on high risk offenders, come up with a productive treatment plan, and having an aftercare program to meet the needs of the individual (Taylor, 2012). Therefore, when treatment is effective the program will break the cycle and help the individual maintain sobriety through rehabilitation.

Lastly, prison and jail population has been on a rise for decades due the war on drugs. What began as a single drug court in Miami, Florida, in the late 1980s now has over 2,459 programs that is being effective in every state and almost half of all U.S counties (Reuter,2019). Drug court has the ability to reduce prison population and recidivism among offenders who commit drug related crimes. “Problem solving courts such as; Drug Court has been widely preferred as an important tool for reducing prison and jail populations by diverting drug-involved offenders into treatment rather than incarceration (Reuter,2019). However, a problem is the ability for an individual to be accepted into the program since it has strict guidelines. This could be an issue when it comes to reducing the population in jails and prisons. Nonetheless, an offender who is a preputial offender would have a hard time getting into the program because of past charges held against them. Reuter has discovered that drug courts will only be able to help lower prison and jail populations if big changes are made in the eligibility and sentencing guidelines. However, it is clear that substance abuse is linked to higher crime rates because of the effects substances have over individuals. Sample sizes have measured that, people who are at high risk for drug abuse and have been known to have such dependence will have a better change at being eligible for the program then an individual who has not (Reuter, 2019). Therefore, this evidence goes to show that the program is for people who struggle with drug dependence and the court believes the program would be beneficial to help these individuals. In addition, to staying clean there is a higher chance it could most definitely reduce recidivism while helping offenders. Although, there are risk factors for eligibility among certain individuals it is still possible for some as an alternative of sentencing. Furthermore, there has been “52,777 people admitted to drug court in the past ten years (Reuter, 2019). The number of people who were eligible for drug court were able to receive an alternative to incarceration which then was able to reduce the jail and population for that time. Therefore, not only giving people a chance but helping them in the process.

In conclusion, drug court is very successful with the growth it has achieved over the past twenty years. In addition, people have the ability to go through the drug court program to put their offenses behind them and start over. The program helps these individuals with rehabilitation, accountability, and reducing recidivism. Not only is drug court helping the government save money it is helping the individual to recover and become productive members to society once again. According to Reuter, drug court has grown extraordinary from state to state over the past twenty years making it a standard model of therapeutic reinforcement for the justice system in the United States. Instead of individuals being incarcerated for drug related crimes the court system has established different forms of sentencing that is implied to help the offender instead of incarcerating them all around the world. Drug court is becoming more and more effective making drug court successful for rehabilitation, holding people accountable, and by reducing recidivism. Therefore, drug court is helping addicts with all it has to offer and the court system with the program.


  • Moore, K. A., Barongi, M. M., & Rigg, K. K. (2016). The Experiences of Young Adult Offenders Who Completed a Drug Court Treatment Program. Qualitative Health Research, 27(5), 750-758. doi:10.1177/1049732316645782
  • Sevigny, E. L., Pollack, H. A., & Reuter, P. (2013). Can Drug Courts Help to Reduce Prison and Jail Populations? The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 647(1), 190–212. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716213476258
  • Guastaferro, W. P., & Daigle, L. E. (2012). Linking Noncompliant Behaviors and Programmatic Responses: The Use of Graduated Sanctions in a Felony-Level Drug Court. Journal of Drug Issues, 42(4), 396–419. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022042612461773
  • Bahr, S. J., Masters, A. L., & Taylor, B. M. (2012). What Works in Substance Abuse Treatment Programs for Offenders? The Prison Journal, 92(2), 155–174. https://doi.org/10.1177/0032885512438836
  • Kelly, J., Bergman, B., Hoeppner, B., Vilsaint, C., & White, W. (2017). Prevalence and pathways of recovery from drug and alcohol problems in the United States population: Implications for practice, research, and policy. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 181. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1980095082/


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