Recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction is never easy, but for some it can require more intervention. The level of care necessary really depends on the individual and is affected by things like how long the person has been abusing alcohol or drugs, how heavily they have been using these substances, and whether or not they use more than one drug at a time. For anyone who has been there, getting and staying sober can be extremely difficult. It can also be hard to see a loved one struggle with a substance abuse disorder, especially if they have acquired some legal trouble along the way. This is where the option of a drug court can come into play in the recovery of an addict.
Many addicts will find themselves behind bars at one point or another in their lives, which often leads them to being surrounded by people who are living the same type of lifestyle and gives them the opportunity to make even more connections that will continue to enable their criminal behavior. Usually, after enough criminal activity, or depending on the severity of the charge, probation or parole are often the first steps, but many will still end up reoffending and get yet another new drug-related charge or conviction. This problem has led many states to create new methods of reform, or treatment, when an offender has substance abuse issues and also has drug or alcohol related charges.
Drug court is often a specialized branch in the judicial system that handles, oversees, monitors, and resides over special cases related to non-violent drug offenders. Today, there are approximately 3,000 drug court systems throughout the United States, each of them with the goal to recover addicts and keep them out of jail. Serving time behind bars has long been known to not work in place of an individual’s drug rehabilitation. This is meant to provide an alternative to jail for people with substance abuse problems. As the American justice system is gaining a better understanding of how to properly manage these cases, drug courts are being seen as a better alternative than jail.
Most drug courts are run by public servants who operate under the knowledge that addiction is a public health problem and not inherently a criminal one. It is likely that many would not have committed these crimes unless they were suffering from the disease of addiction.
For the family and friends of those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, we may want to believe that jail will make them better. It logically seems as though they would flourish with the restrictive daily routine that jail imposes on them. Yet, drugs are readily available in jails and prisons across the United States. Since there are those who continue abusing substances while in jail, it is likely difficult for people to ever “get better” while behind bars. Either way, for the majority of addicts, a few weeks out of jail and they are back to their old ways.
Drug court works by providing this intense supervision that many addicts need in order to effectively change their behavior, the people they hang out with, and the learned habits that come with being addicted to drugs or alcohol. This includes regular drug and alcohol testing, often multiple times per day while the person is new to the program.
Drug court participants have consistent reporting sent to case managers, they must participate in many different treatment programs and group counseling sessions, regular court dates to track progress and prompt intervention by drug court personnel, should there be a setback or relapse. The overall idea is to closely monitor participants and actively engage them in their own recovery in order to keep them focused and dedicated to actual change.
While research and data varies some on this topic, many can agree that recidivism rates of people with substance abuse issues, who also completed a drug court program, are significantly lower than those who did participate in a drug court program. According to the National Institute of Justice, the felony re-arrest rate decreased from 40% all the way down to 12% after a two year follow up time period. Other reputable sources show that well-administered drug courts reduce criminal activity by up to 35%, a remarkable finding when compared to traditional case management or proceedings. Not to mention, the cost for treating these individuals is far lower than the cost of keeping them in jail, where they are also more likely to reoffend. This makes drug court a more effective method than the usual jail-time punishment, from the perspective of both the taxpayer and the person suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
There are many reasons why drug courts are more effective. Not only do they provide that crucial structure many addicts need while early in recovery, but they keep addicts out of jail and they also reunite them with their families. Drug courts provide services that allow addicted family members to kick their habit, stay out of jail, and shows them the tools necessary to live life while healthy and sober. Parents in these programs are twice as likely to attend and complete treatment, also decreasing the amount of time their children may have needed to spend out of the home, in places like foster care.
Accountability is also very crucial to those in recovery, and drug courts supervision and comprehensive care prevents the vast majority of offenders from dropping out of the program early on. The connection they have with the judge they see usually on a weekly basis, the peers they spend time with in group counseling sessions, and other members of the drug court team all work together in keeping the person accountable for their recovery. Because of this participants in drug court are 6 times more likely to finish treatment.
If you are facing the decision of participating in drug court or staying in jail, the research doesn’t lie. By participating in drug court you are much more likely to succeed in sobriety, but you have to want to change. The same can be said for anyone who is looking to get help for the drug or alcohol addiction. If you are needing help and are unsure where to turn, please reach out and give us a call! Here at More Than Rehab, much like drug court systems, we know what it takes to make a lasting change to live a healthy life of sobriety.