Federal judges are teaming up with prosecutors to create treatment programs for drug-addicted defendants who would otherwise face significant prison time, an effort intended to sidestep drug laws seen as inflexible and overly punitive, says the New York Times. The Justice Department is allowing U.S. Attorneys to reduce or even dismiss some drug charges.
The effort follows decades of success for drug courts in states, which legal experts say is a less expensive and more effective alternative to prison for dealing with many low-level repeat offenders. It is striking that the model is spreading at the federal level, where judges have increasingly pushed back against rules that restrict their ability to make their own determination of appropriate sentences. Federal judges have instituted programs in California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington. About 400 defendants have been involved nationwide. Federal Judge John Gleeson of Brooklyn issued an opinion last week praising the approach as a way to address swelling prison costs and disproportionate sentences for drug trafficking.