A national group of defense attorneys says low-level drug offenders deserve treatment in the public health sector without being penalized by the criminal justice system, reports the St. Petersburg Times. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers spent two years dissecting drug courts nationally. “Drug abuse is a community problem, not a problem for the courts,” said Cynthia Orr, the group’s president.
Flunking out of a program often means defendants face tougher sentences than if they not sought help at all, said Rick Jones, a board member for the lawyers group, which believes defendants shouldn’t have to plead guilty to receive treatment. Jim Downum, Hillsborough County, Fl.”s drug court coordinator, disagrees with the report’s premise. “You design your drug court so it fits the needs of your community,” he said. “You have people with substance abuse issues. That may be a public health issue, but they’ve broken the law to get here. The legal system has to run its course as well.”