Commentary: “All Rise!” National Drug Court Month Demonstrates That Drug Courts are a Proven Budget Solution

West Huddleston, CEO of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals

Whenever a judge enters the courtroom to take the bench, you’ll typically hear a court officer proclaim: “All Rise!” For centuries, these two words have inspired a sense of awe and respect for our judicial process.

However, in drug court, “All Rise” means something more. Instead of an order, “All Rise” has become a promise — a promise to help lighten the burden of addiction for those unable to overcome it alone. A promise to provide the treatment and accountability needed to put people back on track.

More than 2,400 drug courts nationwide are currently celebrating National Drug Court Month by bringing this promise to bear. By month’s end, thousands of individuals who entered the criminal justice system addicted to drugs and facing incarceration will complete drug court and emerge as productive, taxpaying citizens. And as they rise out of the depths of addiction, their families and communities rise with them.

National Drug Court Month is a powerful demonstration of what has become our most successful justice program. More than a decade of research has established that drug courts significantly reduce substance abuse and drug-related crime and produce greater cost benefits than any other criminal justice strategy.

Drug Court Graduate (center) and Her Family

In fact, two-thirds of drug court participants nationally will complete a year or more of intensive treatment and 75 percent of those will never see another pair of handcuffs; saving a fortune. That success translates into $27 of savings to tax-payers for every $1 invested in drug courts.

This year, National Drug Court Month comes amid renewed interest in criminal justice reform. State and national leaders are calling for an end to America’s costly overreliance on incarceration and immediate reductions to our $70 billion annual expenditure on corrections. Drug courts sit squarely at the center of these initiatives. From saving money to saving lives, from eliminating racial disparities to protecting public safety, from cutting crime to restoring families, from treating veterans to stopping impaired drivers, drug courts present an opportunity for reform that appeals to pragmatists on all sides of the debate.

In December, “Right on Crime,” located at the Texas Public Policy Institute in Austin, launched an initiative making the conservative case for criminal justice reform. To quote their priorities, “In Drug Courts, America has found not only a solution to an important public policy problem, it has hit yet again upon an essential conservative truth – the power of personal responsibility and accountability.”

ONDCP's Director Kerlikowske Attends Drug Court Graduation

On May 16, President Obama issued a special statement praising drug courts as a smart investment. This comes three months after he requested a record level of funding for drug courts in the FY ’12 budget. Just yesterday, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske attended a drug court graduation in Annapolis, Maryland. He reiterated the Administration’s support, saying that drug courts provide a critical service to families and communities. This nation appears ready to reap the vast economic and societal benefits of expanding drug court as a proven budget solution. I certainly hope we All Rise to the occasion.

West Huddleston, CEO of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals

6 Responses to Commentary: “All Rise!” National Drug Court Month Demonstrates That Drug Courts are a Proven Budget Solution

  1. Rachel | May 24, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    While it is nice to see our criminal justice system move toward more therapeutic approaches, drug courts are not without their issues. The over-reliance of the criminal justice system for the health-related issue of addiction is ineffective and inappropriate. Please read the extensive research done by NACDL at and by the Drug Policy Alliance at

    • john | May 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      Anything on Drug Policy Alliance website is chockfull of mis-truths. DPA purpose in only to legalize drugs and nothing else.

    • West Huddleston | May 24, 2011 at 7:30 pm

      Go to to see our response to DPA, JPI and NACDL attacks on Drug Courts. Legalization of dangerous drugs is no public-health solution.

  2. Tom | May 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    I’m glad to see that Drug Courts are being addressed as part of criminal justice reform. It’s staggering to think of the savings we could have if this program was more available. Not to mention the lives saved and families kept together.

  3. Leana | May 24, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    ALL RISE for Drug Court! Thank you so much for what you do! Thank you for SAVING MY LIFE! I have a dream that every addict in this great free country has the opportunity to enter in to Drug Court because DRUG COURT WORKS! Nothing else worked for me! I knew that I did not want to stay sick but I did not know how to get better until Drug Court showed me how! I will be forever grateful to West and this amazing program that has changed my life forever. More important than that is how the program has given life back to my family and the children who did not have a choice in the matter! I can now be a mother to the baby girl I had in prison! She is now in high school and NUMBER ONE IN HER CLASS! She wants to go to Harvard! My husband and I are both very grateful graduates of this incredible program. Because of Drug Court, our 5 year old son has never seen his mom or his dad under the influence of any drugs or alcohol! We are forever changed and forever thankful. ALL RISE!

  4. Pamela | May 25, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Although we rely on the media to give is up to date news based on facts, we must keep in mind alot is not fact but personal opinion being misconstrued as fact for others own personal agenda. If you want the truth and nothing but the truth about Drug Courts. I suggest go volunteer with your local program and see for yourself. Nothing is better than a personal view, and I know they would love to have you!

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