Thursday, January 30, 2014

Drug Courts: Five things you didn’t know

I'd heard about them but knew nothing about them.
The  past couple of weeks I talked to the judges and staff who run Drug Courts and other problem solving courts in Nebraska.  The people who have been through them have a lot to say too.  They’re promoted as good for the participants, good for the community, and a bargain.  The numbers in studies done both nationally and in Nebraska seem to back that up.
They get a HUGE turnout when they hold Drug Court Graduations. (Photo: Lancaster Co. Court)
Here are five surprising things I learned about them:

  1. The people who volunteer to take part start out going back to court every week to report back to the judge.  It’s a weird combination of being talked to by a parent, a psychologist, and a cop who happens to be wearing a judge’s robe.   Every participant gets called up for a chat… in public, so there are no secrets. 
  2. Only 5% of the people who graduate from a drug court program commit another crime within a year later.  Compare that to 32% who re-offended after being released from a state prison.
  3. Even the people who wash out of the program are way less likely to commit a crime after they’ve been through part of the program.  Only about 7 out of one hundred reoffend.
  4. Keeping someone in drug court is way cheaper than prison or county jail.  Nebraska spends about $70 dollars a day on every prison inmate.  It costs about $45 dollars a day to house and feed someone in a county jail.  Someone in the Drug Court program costs between $20 to $40 a day.  Individual drug courts around the state set up their own budgets.
  5. Participants may get a drug test two or three times a day.  That can be at home, or work, or wherever one of the staff ask them to fill up the cup.  About the worse thing a participant can do is try to cheat a drug test.