May is National Drug Court month. This month is an opportunity to spotlight the drug court philosophy that addicted people belong in treatment, not in prison. Drug court is a cost-effective way of holding those who commit crimes related to addiction accountable while learning through treatment about the benefits of a sober life.
Drug court is a voluntary program offered to some offenders whose crime is a result of drug addiction. Violent offenders and sex offenders are excluded from drug court. In lieu of incarceration, the participant is provided with treatment services for them to get and stay clean and sober. Random drug testing is conducted to ensure the participant remains drug-free. Drug courts represent a criminal justice approach that takes into account the need to ensure public safety through close supervision. They are among the most effective ways to address the problem of substance abuse and crime. The participants are held accountable by the drug court judge for meeting their obligations to the court, to society, to themselves, and to their families. The participants are required to appear in court frequently so the judge can review their progress.
Fulton and Montgomery counties both have very successful drug court programs. About 90 percent of both counties' drug court graduates do not have further arrests. The revolving door of arrest, release and arrest again has been dramatically reduced. Fulton County taxpayers save about $600,000 per year because the drug court participants are not incarcerated, the cost of which would be $89 per day per participant.
Montgomery County Drug Court participants have developed a Lifeworks group that sponsors sober social and fundraising events. The proceeds are given back to the community in the form of toys at Christmas and scholarships. Through participation in Lifeworks, addicts learn to have fun while sober and to give back to their community.
One of the most important effects of drug courts is the positive impact they have on families who have been negatively affected by their loved one's addiction. The positive healing and restorative effects of drug courts on families are dramatic.
A sincere thank you to our Montgomery and Fulton County drug courts for the wonderful, lifesaving work they do every day. I encourage everyone to attend a drug court graduation so they can personally learn about the lives that are positively affected through this innovative and cost-effective system.
MARGARET B. CLARK
HFM Prevention Council