Denver’s drug court, once considered a national model, has been virtually eliminated, reports the Denver Post. That has caused inmates to stack up in city jails, delaying treatment for addicts and postponing resolution of cases, say critics. In 1994, Denver created one of the country’s first drug courts. The city has scaled back and scattered its program to the point that critics argue it no longer exists. They are pushing to reinstate a centralized system to help relieve jail crowding. “It is one of the heartbreak stories,” said Douglas Marlowe of the University of Pennsylvania, who studies drug courts.
Denver’s was the 12th drug court in the nation. There are now more than 1,400. Some say that drug offenders are more likely to get prison sentences now than under the old drug-court model, a fact supported for at least higher-level offenders, according to a review of data by the Post. This summer, the prosecutor’s office disbanded a nine-member drug prosecution unit, saying the scattered cases created a scheduling and workload nightmare. The demise of Denver drug court comes after the federal Government Accountability Office evaluated seven drug courts this year and found their defendants were less likely to reoffend.