Every year in the U.S. millions of people are arrested for drug offenses. For first-time or non-violent offenders, judges and prosecutors have guidelines they can follow for sentencing. Instead of imprisonment, many judges sentence offenders to drug court, a program to help divert addicts away from a life of crime and into drug addiction treatment. Drug courts provide an alternative to incarceration by using treatment and counseling to help offenders.
As an alternative to incarceration, drug courts provide a way to redirect drug users toward alternative treatments, supervision, and counseling programs. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) describes drug court on their site. All individuals who participate in this program must stay sober and get treatment for a minimum of one year. They are held accountable by the judge and they must meet all obligations and pass random drug tests. People in the drug court program are also required to appear frequently in court so their progress can be reviewed and they can be sanctioned or rewarded based on their actions.
According to the NADCP website, drug courts save money around the entire country. For every $1 invested in drug court, taxpayers can avoid as much as $3 in criminal justice costs and healthcare services. They can also save $27 for every $1 invested in drug court. The money saved comes from avoiding the costs of processing, sentencing, and incarcerating people. According to the NADCP, three out of four drug court graduates remain arrest-free for at least two years upon completing the program.
The USA has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 1.6 million people imprisoned. Many of these people are in jail because of drug-related crimes. The financial and societal cost of imprisoning people has been rising for some time. However, programs like drug court actually work and reduce addiction and recidivism rates.