The Case for Drug Treatment Instead of Prison
by Rodrigo Flores, age 15The Dane County drug court began in 1996 and is one of about 2,000 such courts in the United States. Participants must have no convictions or pending cases due to violence or weapon possession. They must also have an identifiable need for drug treatment.
The drug court is generally a nine-month program of treatment for people who have been charged with possession of drugs. The program helps people kick their drug addictions. Those who successfully complete the process will have their charges dismissed or reduced. Circuit Judge John Markson, who oversees the court, says that participants who fail to meet drug court obligations could be dismissed from the program, or even be sent to jail. If expelled, participants are sentenced in conventional court.
Studies have shown that addicts who go through the county drug court process remained crime free longer. However, not all courts offer the same kind of treatment as Dane County.
Between 1996 and 2009, 1,160 cases went through the Dane County drug court with 653 graduates. It costs $3,750 per person to attend this rehabilitation program. A Department of Corrections source says that the cost of keeping a person in prison is around $32,000 per year, significantly higher than sending someone through this program.
Andy Hansbro, a graduate of the Dane County drug court, says the drug court not only solved his legal problems, it helped give him his life back. It kept him off drugs and out of trouble.
[Source: Wisconsin State Journal]