Our Opinion: Treatment courts save tax money, restore lives

Missouri’s top jurist used the platform offered by the annual State of the Judiciary address to highlight the success of specialty courts focused on treatment.

Good for him.

These courts use justice to invest in recovery rather than warehouse offenders.

Chief Justice Richard Teitelman wove personal stories with promising statistics to describe the specialty courts.

The courts specialize in drug and alcohol offenses, or crimes by military veterans. Rather than incarceration, first-time offenders may be given the option to complete a rigorous regimen that includes counseling, testing and regular visits with a supervising judge.

Are these specialty courts effective? Let’s look at some numbers from a recent judicial report.

• More than 12,000 defendants have completed substance abuse programs successfully in Missouri’s 20-year history of the courts.

• Among adults who complete drug court, 7.1 percent re-offend within the next 30 months, about half the 15 percent recidivism rate for those who do not participate.

• Among adults who complete DWI court programs, the recidivism rate is 6.1 percent, compared with an 18 percent recidivism rate for those who do not go through the programs.

• In 2012, Missouri conducted 136 treatment court programs with 3,500 adult and juvenile participants. Diverting 3,000 of those adult offenders from prison saved an estimated $50 million.

We consider those cost savings impressive.

Of greater value, however, are the lives restored through the process of recovery.

Specialty courts are designed to be transformative. Offenders who preyed on victims become producers who contribute to communities.

You can’t assign a dollar value to that.

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