Denver’s drug court is “back from rehab,” says the Rocky Mountain News. The $1.2 million program, which began March 9 after a five-year hiatus, is aimed at speeding up drug cases, freeing jail beds, and providing treatment for drug offenders. “Drug court provides a humane and practical way to treat nonviolent drug offenses,” said Denver District Court Chief Judge Larry Naves. “We believe the earlier a defendant is in court, the greater chance of success.” Drug-related cases often take up to 90 days to go through the court system because other criminal defendants take precedence over drug cases.
Critics say the backlog of drug cases, which will account for 40 percent of cases filed in Denver this year, is a significant contributing factor to jail overcrowding. Instead of drug offenders waiting behind bars for court appearances, they are seen in drug court in up to five days. The program is expected to free about 130 jail beds each day. One repeat drug offender was arrested 74 times last year and cost Denver more than $1 million in jail and court costs. Defendants in the program will go on probation and will be required to undergo treatment and take random drug testing. Those who don’t follow the rules will face penalties such as increased supervision or possibly prison.