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Martin Sheen Appears Before Congress to Defend Drug Courts

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Actor Martin Sheen, father of the infamous Charlie Sheen, appeared at a Congressional briefing on Friday to defend drug courts. His testimony comes on the heels of two think tank reports that criticized the courts.

There are nearly 2,500 drug courts throughout the country, Time reports. At a Congressional briefing on drug courts sponsored by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), Sheen called drug courts “the very best deal Congress can make to reduce crime and the social consequences related to drug addiction.”

Drug courts assign offenders to treatment and supervision, instead of jail. Time reports that at the briefing, Doug Marlowe, chief of science, law and policy for the NADCP pointed to research on the effectiveness of drug courts in reducing crime and saving money. But recent reports issued by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Justice Policy Institute say that drug courts cherry pick the criminals most likely to succeed, thus inflating the courts’ rates of success. They also criticize the power given to drug court judges and point to the instances where offenders who participate in drug court but don’t recover quickly end up with longer prison terms than they would have if they had pleaded guilty and avoided drug court.

8 Responses to this article

  1. A. Barger / April 10, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Roy, your experience is consistent with research showing that the best predictor of successful treatment outcome is persistence in treatment. Court-ordered clients, even those with a history of failures, often start off with little incentive to remain in treatment and thus leave early. A legal mandate provides early incentive and then, as small successes happen, the person becomes more personally invested in the treatment itself. Are drug courts flawless? No, no human system is; but it is an excellent resource for communities, courts and the offenders themselves, to say nothing of their families.

  2. Avatar of Jim Lear
    Jim Lear / April 9, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Drug Courts have consistently demonstrated their effectiveness in many ways, i.e., significant fiscal savings compared to incarceration, less recidivism and increased success rates/percentages of individuals addressing their addiction. However, the court/criminal justice system frequently subverts the process by issuing pre-determined aftercare mandates without regard for clinical judgment/recommendation. Additionally, treatment facilities often succumb to such mandates without protest in order to maintain continued drug referrals. Until a solution to this dilemma is reached, this system will not reach full potential.

  3. Avatar of Sandra Streifel
    Sandra Streifel / April 9, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Drug Courts do not all function to the standards and practices of the best in the nation, however much the idea of treating addicts instead of punishing and returning them to society worse is rational and cost-effective. Some Drug Courts don’t even have the same philosophy as the rest of them. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/430/very-tough-love
    You can read or listen to this report on Amanda Williams, a Superior Court Judge in Georgia who runs an uniquely punitive drug court.
    There is a lot of latitude given to judges in Drug Courts and other diversions, since you have to plead guilty to be there. Extreme sentences for posession, compared to other developed countries, and other plea-bargain pressures, make the War on Drugs a hammer on minorities. Until treatment is available to anyone, anywhere, Drug Court is at best, an also-ran.

  4. Avatar of whiz quiz specialist
    whiz quiz specialist / April 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    I have been working as the felony coordinator with a drug court for almost 9 years. I disagree with a lot of what both of these “think tanks” had to say. There was comment that people with drug charges would be better off with treatment and not in the criminal justice system. Two things about that 1)inspite of what the report said, mandated clients DO have a better completion rate in TX…. better than the report stated, and 2) our court has VERY few participants with drug charges. They have other felony offences and without a drug court would definitely be in prison.

  5. Avatar of jim grossman
    jim grossman / April 5, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    hard to believe there is such negativity toward drug courts- is it our emotional national dilemma about drugs? ok to a point- but don’t get controlled by them because then you are a failed person who legitimately can be written off? Drug court, like family court provides a sensitivity, through inclination and training, toward dealing with people who’s lives have spun further out of control than they might have without drug involvement.

  6. Avatar of john
    john / April 5, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Think Tank give me a break Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) goal is to legalize drugs so anything that works they will criticize.

  7. Avatar of Roy Divincenti
    Roy Divincenti / April 4, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Both of those reports have some misinformation. There may be some courts that hand pick the clients but my experience, as an Addiction Counselor, who works with Drug Court referred treatment programs in Louisiana. I have had many clients referred that I had wondered why they were admitted to Drug Court, because they had a high possibility of failure. To my amazement many of these people DID COMPLETE the 18 months and remained sober/and clean. I have seen a few hundred graduate from the treatment programs that I have worked for over the last 12 years.

    Drug Courts do work!!!

  8. A. Barger / April 10, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    John, you are absolutely correct. The Drug Policy Alliance is not a think tank, it is a pro-drug use organization attempting to influence public policy in a way that allows for unfettered use of all drugs. Let’s hope that Congress, in its current funds-cutting madness does not defund programs that actually save money, such as drug courts.

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