Nonviolent drug offenders who complete judge-supervised treatment programs are significantly less likely to commit new crimes than are those who serve prison time, says a study by a research arm of the New York State court system. The New York Times says the report supports the idea that drug courts are far better at preventing future criminal behavior than are prisons, and that they do so at a small fraction of the cost.
The study, by the Center for Court Innovation, found that in six sample jurisdictions, the rearrest rate among drug offenders who finished a court-monitored treatment plan was 29 percent lower over three years than the rate for the same type of drug offenders who went to prison without treatment.
“These are very positive findings, I think, getting to the answer of whether drug courts work in reducing recidivism,” said Deborah Daniels, an assistant United States attorney general in charge of the Justice Department agency that helps fund local drug courts. “It shows that drug courts continue to be a very promising way of dealing with a first-offender or nearly first-offender population.”
Drug courts focus on a voluntary group of offenders, generally not dealing with hard-core criminals, multiple-felony offenders or anyone with a history of violence. New York drug courts, which have heard the cases of 18,000 nonviolent drug offenders who participated in court-monitored treatment instead of incarceration, have saved an estimated $254 million in prison-related expenses, the report said.