For Immediate Release-
Friday, April 26, 2019
A courtroom is not a place where you expect to find scenes of celebration and tears of joy. Unless, of course, it’s drug court. This May, drug courts throughout South Dakota will join more than 3,000 such programs nationwide in celebrating National Drug Court Month. This year alone, more than 150,000 individuals nationwide who entered the justice system due to addiction will receive lifesaving treatment and the chance to repair their lives, reconnect with their families and find long-term recovery. National Drug Court Month is a celebration of the lives restored by drug court, and it sends the powerful message that these programs must be expanded to reach more people in need.
Nearly 30 years ago, the first drug court opened its doors with a simple premise: Rather than continue to allow individuals with long histories of addiction and crime to cycle through the justice system at great expense to the public, use the leverage of the court to keep them engaged in treatment long enough to be successful. Today, drug courts, DUI Courts, Veterans Treatment Courts and Mental Health Courts are collectively referred to in South Dakota as problem-solving courts. These courts have proven that a combination of accountability and compassion saves lives while also saving valuable resources and reducing exorbitant criminal justice costs.
Several years ago, a young woman entered one of our drug courts. After years of struggling with a substance use disorder, she resorted to stealing to support her addiction. She was arrested numerous times, but nothing changed, she continued her use and criminal behavior. She was facing years in prison when she got the chance to participate in drug court.
In drug court, she met weekly with the drug court judge. She received rigorous treatment, counseling, community supervision, and frequent and random drug tests. With the help of the drug court team, including a Judge, States Attorney, Defense Attorney, Treatment provider, Court Services Officer, Law Enforcement Official, and program coordinator, she began to put her life back together. While in the program, she was required to work and eventually reconnected with her family. She completed the program and as part of her recovery process, continues to attend community support groups. Today, she is happy, healthy, employed, parenting and contributing to our community instead of being a burden to taxpayers in the penitentiary.
This is just one of the many individual stories that demonstrate why problem-solving courts are so critical in the effort to address addiction and related crime. And the scientific research agrees: Numerous studies have found that drug courts reduce crime and drug use and save money. Research shows drug courts also improve education, employment, housing, financial stability and family reunification, which reduces foster care placements.
Problem-solving courts represent a compassionate approach to the ravages of addiction. This year’s National Drug Court Month celebration should signal that the time has come to reap the economic and societal benefits of expanding this proven budget solution to all in need.
National Drug Court Month Schedule