As it has for several decades, drug use continues to shape the criminal justice system in general and the court system in particular. The North Carolina General Assembly asked the North Carolina Institute of Medicine to convene a Task Force to study substance abuse services in the state and to provide a final report and recommendations to the 2009 NC General Assembly. More than one-half of all criminal cases before the NC courts involve people with alcohol and other drug (AOD) abuse and addiction. In 2008, 202,942 drug-related charges were brought before the NC Criminal Courts and there were 72,867 DWI charges. These do not include approximately one million additional criminal cases such as assault, breaking and entering, and larceny that were committed under the influence of AOD or committed to support the offender's addiction. The Task Force presented their findings and recommendations in January 2008. Thirty two recommendations were made. Growth of the state's adult and family DTCs was one of only 11 "PRIORITY RECOMMENDATIONS".
For the full report, go to: http://www.nciom.org/SATF_Full%20Report.pdf
Every study that has assessed the extent of the problem has concluded that at least 75% of criminal court filings, not to mention a substantial percentage of domestic and other civil court filings, are the product of substance abuse.
Independent efforts by our public servants in law enforcement and the judiciary to stem the flow of drugs and curb drug-driven crime via arrest and punishment have met with little success.
While treatment interventions are promising, getting offenders into treatment and keeping them active in a recovery program for at least a year (with two years being the recommended yardstick for enhancing successful treatment outcomes) has continued to plague both the criminal justice and the treatment systems. The DTC concept, with its coercive abstinence philosophy, specifically addresses this dilemma.
Drug courts represent the coordinated efforts of the judiciary, prosecution, defense bar, probation, law enforcement, treatment, mental health, social services, and child protection services to actively and forcefully intervene and break the cycle of substance abuse, addiction, and crime. As an alternative to less effective interventions, drug courts quickly identify substance abusing offenders and place them under strict court monitoring and community supervision, coupled with effective, long-term treatment services.
In this blending of systems, the drug court participant undergoes an intensive regime of substance abuse and mental health treatment, case management, drug testing, and probation supervision while reporting to regularly scheduled status hearings before a judge with specialized expertise in the drug court model. In addition, drug courts may provide job skills training, family or group counseling, and many other life-skill enhancement services.
From the earliest evaluations, researchers have determined that drug courts provide "closer, more comprehensive supervision and much more frequent drug testing and monitoring during the program than other forms of community supervision. More importantly, drug use and criminal behavior are substantially reduced while offenders are participating in drug court" (Belenko, 1998; 2001).