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These are specialized courts that handle substance abuse offenders who are not violent. Drug courts operate in a unique and specialized manner in conjunction with the community programs to help drug offenders become more productive persons. It applies a comprehensive approach that includes both traditional and innovative interventions to drug abuse treatment which includes diagnostic and investigative services, group education, individual therapy, psychiatric counseling, and outpatient services among others.
In my view, the courts are worth investing in because the retrogression rates for offenders who have graduated from the courts have proved to be lower than that of those who did not take part in the program. Research surveys done by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) have shown that merely 16 percent of the graduates had re-arrests as compared to 46 percent re-arrests of those who did not participate or got convicted through the traditional court mechanism (NADCP, 1997).
In relation to treatment expenses, these courts have proved to be highly cost effective as they help reduce the costs per individual. In 1998, illegal substance abuse cost hiked to $32 billion, with over $ 35 billion lost in reduced productivity and property damages. Treating the offenders through drug courts would help save more than $46 billion (NADCP, 1997).
A detailed analysis of the roles played by drug court judges reveals that these duties may not be undertaken by others in the justice system because they have specialized trainings that facilitate their effective delivery in courts and community programs. According to the NADCP, they carry out specialized researches, trainings of its practitioners and dissemination of important drugs that may not be offered by the other justice personnel (NADCP, 1997).
These judges strive to maintain criminal balance between power, regulation and support and encouragement. Through frequently personalized interactions with the participants, they have been able to closely monitor the recovery process of the addicts, effectively follow post-adjudication programs, provide support and encouragement services and, where applicable, offer incentives to encourage recovery and compliance. The participants must, therefore, complete the whole program cycle upon which they stay drug-free. This intensity of the treatment program makes it near impossible to substitute the judges. The “air of the judicial office” has enabled the judges to make decisions without any interference from external sources. This has made the community programs successful.