America’s growing reliance on drug courts is an ineffective allocation of scarce state resources, the Justice Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group argued today. The institute contends that “drug courts can needlessly widen the net of criminal justice involvement, and cannot replace the need for improved treatment services in the community.”
The group said that of nearly 8 million people in the U.S. who say they need treatment for drug use, fewer than one fourth classified with substance abuse or a dependence on drugs and/or alcohol gets treatment. For those who do receive treatment, more than 37 percent are referred by the criminal justice system. Among the institute’s recommendations: provide more treatment before people get involved in the justice system, start more “diversion” programs, focus court treatment programs on those who would have gone to prison, and do more evaluations of drug courts.