Drug Courts Work

A study on the effectiveness of the 7-year-old drug court in St. Louis, Mo., finds that the program’s benefits far outweigh its costs, the Associated Press reported Feb. 2.

The study by the independent Institute of Applied Research found that nonviolent drug offenders who are placed in treatment instead of prison generally earn more money and took less from the welfare system than those on probation.

The study compared the 219 individuals who were the program’s first graduates in 2001 with 219 people who pleaded guilty to drug charges during the same period and completed probation.

For each drug-court graduate the cost to taxpayers was $7,793, which was $1,449 more than those on probation. However, during the two years after drug court, each graduate cost the city $2,615 less than those on probation. The savings were realized in higher wages and related taxes paid, as well as lower costs for health care and mental-health services.

“What you learn is that drug courts, which involve treatments for all the individuals and real support — along with sanctions when they fail — are a more cost-effective method of dealing with drug problems than either probation or prison,” said Tony Loman, the lead researcher.

The St. Louis drug court allows addicted individuals who have been arrested to voluntarily enrol in the program. Participants are required to submit to periodic drug and alcohol testing, appear in court during scheduled times, find and keep jobs, and enrol in drug and alcohol treatment. Those who successfully complete the program have their charges dropped.

Source:  Author Tony Loman et al published by Institute of Applied Research reported on JTO Online 2003

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