It’s been 20 years since the first drug court opened in Miami as a way of getting nonviolent offenders into court-supervised drug rehabilitation programs, says the Associated Press. More than 2,300 drug courts have started around the U.S., credited with reducing crime and saving the cost of locking people up. The specialized courts are available to under 10 percent of the 1.2 million drug-addicted offenders. The Obama administration wants to boost funding so that hundreds more courts can begin work.
The main problem is a lack of money. While every state has at least one drug court, only a handful of states have one in every county. Drug courts received about $64 million in federal money this year. Congress could push funding over $100 million next year. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers contends that prosecutors tend to cherry pick the easy cases for drug courts, shunning defendants with deeper addiction problems. The group questions a requirement that defendants plead guilty before being allowed into drug courts.