Drug Courts Pros And Cons
What are the advantages and disadvantages of drug court programs, as compared to traditional sentencing procedures (i.e., imprisonment)?
It seems clear that drug court programs are much better than incarceration. However, it is not as clear that they are better than probation programs, which are also a part of the “traditional sentencing procedures.”
Drug courts are courts that deal mostly with people charged with nonviolent drug related crimes. These courts often hand down sentences that do not involve incarceration or traditional probation. Instead, drug courts often sentence offenders to things like rehabilitation programs followed by strict drug testing.
One major pro of such programs compared to incarceration is that they are much cheaper. It costs a great deal of money to incarcerate a single prisoner, even if they are in for a nonviolent drug offense. Drug court programs typically cost much less than incarcerating a prisoner would. This makes drug courts attractive for states that are in financial difficulties.
A second major pro of these programs is that they are better for the offenders and for society. When drug offenders are sent to prison, they are not rehabilitated. Instead, they come out with a prison record that will make it harder for them to get a job. They may have lost their families while in prison. They may have become exposed to and involved with more hardened criminals. All of this is bad for the offenders. It is also bad for society because it makes them more likely to reoffend and less likely to be productive members of society.
The only real con of drug court programs relative to incarceration is that they may not satisfy people who believe in strong punishments for those who break the law. Drug court programs essentially give people help when they have broken the law even though equivalent help might not be available to those who do not break the law. This seems wrong.
Drug courts may, however, be less effective and more expensive than traditional probation programs. It may be that probation programs are cheaper because they involve less strict supervision of the offenders. It may also be that they are just as effective. The research on this issue is not conclusive.
Thus, drug court programs are clearly superior to incarceration but may not be superior to probation.
Pros of Drug Court Programs
- Drug courts actually address the drug problem and work on curing, rather than just punishing for a crime
- By actually focusing on what got them in trouble, drug courts better prepare the offender for a drug-free future
- Drug courts free up the regular courts to focus on more pressing issues
- Drug courts have a history of success, as research shows that those who participated in drug court programs are less likely to be repeat offenders
Cons of Drug Court Programs
- Programs are inconsistent from county to county, and many counties don't even have drug court programs
- Usually, defendants have to plead guilty and waive their rights to a speedy trial in order to enter a drug court program