Drug courts play a vital role in the criminal justice system. The war against drug, which had started some decades back, is one of the causes of the ballooning of prison population in the US. Today, the US has the most populated prison system in the world (Hale et al 2013, p. 517). Drug courts can whittle down prison population and cut down recidivism rates. They add a facet to the criminal justice system – one that does not only judge and incarcerate, but help in restoring a person as a good member of society. The help that drug courts offer, thus, includes the personal and social. On one hand, they compel a substance abuser to rehabilitate himself through time-tested programs, and on the other, they make society safer by making sure that the person under treatment is released to society as a rehabilitated person. The importance of drug courts and their programs are highlighted in this essay. Two of the country’s drug court programs - New Jersey and New York – are compared and assess in the following paragraphs.
The New Jersey Drug Court Program
The New Jersey drug court programs are exacting. Frequent drug testing and court appearances combined with services of drug treatment regimen and recovery is imposed. This allows the court to closely monitor the progress of the subject and act instantaneously under the circumstances. The New Jersey Adult Drug Court Program, like those of other states, is an alternative to incarceration (New Jersey Drug Courts 2010). To initiate the process, the criminal record, past and present, of the offender is reviewed and his addiction is assessed. If the offender passes the review, he or she is placed in the program and given a treatment suited to the level of care required, based on the clinical assessment made. Aside from frequent court appearances and drug testing, the offender’s life is expected to be closely followed and imposed upon by the judge (New Jersey Drug Court 2010).
Entry into the system may be made in one of the two modes. The first mode is called the Special Probation mode in which a person not eligible for probation because the crime he or she was convicted of has a mandatory minimum period of non-probation can be placed under special probation, which carries a sentence of five years. The term, however, can be shortened if the offender responds to the treatment favorably. Under this mode, the offender must be committed to a residential treatment facility for at least six months, which may be decreased depending on the progress of the offender in the treatment. Even after treatment, the offender under this mode must continue with aftercare treatment. The program requirements are based on the assessment of the offender’s addiction history, life circumstances and personal criteria. The other mode of entry is through the general sentencing provisions of the NJ Code of Criminal Justice. The qualifications for entry under this mode are: drug or alcohol dependence, no prior conviction or pending charges for violent and serious crimes, no history of firearm possession, and does not pose danger to the community (New Jersey Drug Court 2010).
The New York Drug Court Program
In New York, the 146 drug courts all over the state mark the completion of the state’s drug court expansion. The state has three types of drug courts: criminal drug courts, family drug courts and juvenile drug courts. In the first type, drug addiction must be a component of the criminal charges against the offender. The second type covers neglect petitions of which drug abuse is also a component. Successful graduates of this type of program are restored of their right to be with their children. In the last type, only juveniles charged with Juvenile Delinquency (JD) or Person In Need of Supervision (PINS) petitions are qualified. Pending petitions are dismissed after successful graduation of the program (NYCourts.gov 2014).
The Suffolk County Drug Treatment Program is a concrete example of a drug court program in NY. Persons being charged with misdemeanors and felonies – even those with prior felony convictions – may placed under the program – so long as they are not being charged with a felony-level drug sale or of A-1 or A-2 level drug felonies. Assessment must reveal drug addiction, not merely alcohol abuse. The program is also voluntary, but if the offender accepts his or her placement in the program, he or she must plead guilty to the charge. The court then imposes a fixed jail, which covers the offender in case of treatment failure. The treatment program is the same for all – 12 months in the program, six months of which must be drug-free. There are five treatment modalities, but no stages of treatment within a modality. A participant can be assigned to any of the modalities (NYCourts.gov 2014).
Conclusion: Personal Drug Court Program
My drug court program will integrate the best of both state programs. Like the NJ program, the court must be very active in following the progress of the treatment compelling court appearances as much as twice a week. However, I agree with the classification of the NY program that separates adult, family and juvenile programs from each other. In addition, the NY program is all encompassing while the entrants to the NJ programs must have no prior conviction. All should be given a chance as long as the assessment indicates that the offender is ready for treatment. In addition, there is no need for the participant to plead guilty because the tendency is for offenders to plead guilty even if they are not guilty to ensure evasion from imprisonment if their alibi is weak. For this purpose, the program should only be offered to persons convicted although a separate drug program during the pendency of the trial should also be made available.
Hale, C., Hayward, K., Wahidin, A. and Wincup, E. (2013). Criminology. Oxford University Press.
New Jersey Drug Court (2010). A Model for Success: A Report on New Jersey’s Adult Drug Courts. http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/drugcourt/
NYCourts.gov (2014). Program Profile: Suffolk County (NY) Drug Treatment Court. https://www.crimesolutions.gov/ProgramDetails.aspx?ID=125