Our Opinion: Drug courts effective in fighting crime and addiction
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
The national “War on Drugs” essentially is a battle against the consequences of illegal drug usage — addiction and crime.
Missouri is a leader in an effective strategy, drug courts, and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice William Ray Price Jr. is correct in urging continuation and expansion of the program.
Drug trafficking is a lucrative illegal industry and, like all businesses, its success is based on supply and demand.
“We have not done a very good job on fighting the supply side,” Price concedes. “What we have to focus on is fighting the demand side, and helping people overcome their addiction and returning to normal life.”
Fighting the demand side also has two components — prevention and recovery.
Drug courts offer an incentive to pursue recovery and overcome addiction. The program offers dual virtues — it helps offenders live in recovery and helps communities reduce crime.
Price acknowledged this two-fold benefit when he said: “You have to remember that drugs are the leading, driving force of crime in America. And, for many people to change their lives and to leave their life of crime, they have to overcome their chemical dependencies.”
Drug courts are effective, but not perfect. Price acknowledged about 10 percent of drug court graduates return to prison, but that is a vast improvement over the estimated 50 percent overall recidivism rate.
The challenge for the drug courts is no one-size-fits-all model exists. Price said the courts must evaluate “the individual criminal and assess their needs and risks, and then develop a strategy for the criminal, based on their individual characteristics.” Developing individual strategies obviously is a time- and manpowerintensive exercise. But illegal drug usage is killing people and — as shown in Mexico — transforming entire towns into criminal battlegrounds. We must continue efforts to eradicate illegal drug usage and preserve communities. Drug courts have proved to be an effective strategy in that effort.