According to a report given by the New York Times, “drug courts have been the country’s fastest-spreading innovation in criminal justice, giving arrested addicts a chance to avoid prison by agreeing to stringent oversight and addiction treatment.” The report goes on to say that this initiative is reducing recidivism on average by 8 to 10 percent. New York state is praised for its 26 percent reduction.
Yet, as someone who teaches at a jail, I’m not convinced that Drug Court is in the best interest of most people guilty of substance abuse. Take Brenda as an example. Brenda has been through Drug Court twice. The first time she was booted out in less than two weeks for breaking a rule. Thus, she returned back to jail.
Brenda was then given the option of going “upstate” (prison) for three years or to try Drug Court again. Thinking that Drug Court was the easier route, she agreed to Drug Court. At her new supervised residence, Brenda quickly learned from a few others how to beat the system and how to score the big drugs. Heroin was her drug of choice.
It wasn’t too long before Brenda was caught shooting up and once again found herself in jail. As I met with her we had a frank discussion regarding her life. Brenda is a gifted artist and has two beautiful children. With tears in her eyes, she told me that she’s fearful that she’ll never get off of drugs.
This time Brenda is headed to prison and actually is hopeful that she’ll get off the drugs once and for all. In her opinion, although Drug Court demands a lot of things, she felt that she received minimal counseling and had no person to turn to during her weakest moments.