For decades, many developing and developed countries have battled with drug abuse and drug-related offenses. In a bid to tackle the ever-rising number of individuals incarcerated as a result of these offenses, the judicial system collaborated with other stakeholders including mental health and social services departments to establish a specialized program: drug courts. Drug courts are court dockets established by the judicial department in collaboration with other stakeholders that specifically target to rehabilitate nonviolent adult and juvenile offenders suffering from alcohol and substance dependency. The courts offer two alternatives to eligible offenders. As a diversion program, it allows the offender to enter into supervised drug and substance abuse rehabilitation program for a set period of time with the aim of helping them live a crime-free life. However, the offenders have to successfully complete the program in order for the charges against them to be dropped or the sentence lessened. As an alternative to incarceration, drug courts allows for convicted offenders to enter into rehabilitation instead of serving out the sentence handed by the traditional justice system (NIJ, 2017).
Drug courts aims at reducing the high rates of recidivism among drug and substance offenders. Therefore, eligible offenders are offered more than just drug and substance abuse treatment. They are also given alcohol and substance abuse education while within the program. To enhance chances of completing and adhering to the program, the eligible offenders who have entered into the program are constantly supervised in a joint effort initiative that includes probation officers, defense and prosecution attorneys and social and welfare services officers. Mental and general health professionals are also involved in the supervision and administration of treatment. Since law enforcement department is also involved in the program, the rehabilitation program set up by the drug courts are highly supervised. They constantly screen for drug and substance abuse including regular and random urine testing. They also appear before the drug court judge for a review of their progress within the program (NIJ, 2017). Such reviews are frequently carried out with the view of making necessary adjustments for their rehabilitation and treatment regime. However, any violation of the rules including testing positive for drug and substance use while under the program leads to reinstitution of the initial charges or sentence instituted by the traditional justice system.
Drug courts are initiatives to incorporate into any judicial system. This is because it allows for a specialized approach to special judicial issues and crime. They allow the judicial system to tackle the high drug and substance abuse menace in the country in a special way that is far removed from the traditional justice system that bands together all cases together despite their differences. The one-suit-fits-all approach of justice marked by punitive measures does not effectively tackle the problem of drug and substance abuse and related offenses. The punitive approach leads to high levels of recidivism while banding nonviolent drug and substance abuse offenders together with violent criminals increases chances of turning them into violent criminals (Wolfe, Guydish, Woods & Tajima, 2004). Drug courts use a collaborative approach that is non-adversarial in nature. The specialized docket courts are outcome oriented and not punishment oriented like the traditional punitive-based justice system (NIJ, 2017). It allows all stakeholders to tackle the root cause of the drug and substance abuse behavior while rigorously monitoring their rehabilitation and educating them on how to live a crime-free life and become a law-abiding citizen and productive member of the society.
NIJ. (2017). Drug Courts. National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved from: https://www.nij.gov/topics/courts/drug-courts/Pages/welcome.aspx
Wolfe, E. L., Guydish, J., Woods, W. & Tajima, B. (2004). Perspectives on the Drug Court model across systems: A process evaluation. J Psychoactive Drugs, 36(3): 379–386.