Pubdate: Fri, 05 Apr 2002
Source: Beacon Journal, The (OH)
Copyright: 2002 The Beacon Journal Publishing Co.
Author: Larry Seguin
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Incarceration)
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer should do some research before claiming, as the 
headline of her Feb. 28 letter stated, "Drug court is doing the job."

In recent years, drug courts have become a popular, widely praised and 
rapidly expanding alternative approach of dealing with drug offenders and 
sometimes with people charged with nonviolent crimes who are drug users, 
substituting mandatory treatment for incarceration. Although they have been 
much applauded, concerns have been expressed about the fairness and 
effectiveness of providing coerced treatment at a time when the needs for 
voluntary treatment are not being met -- which creates the strange 
circumstance of needing to get arrested to get treatment.

People forced into treatment may just be people who use drugs in a 
nonproblematic way and happened to get arrested. Arrest is not the best way 
to determine who should get treatment.

These courts are a much less expensive way of handling drug cases in the 
criminal justice system and may result in more people being arrested, many 
of whom would not have been. Thus, they may be expanding the number of 
people hurt by the drug war.

Drug courts are creating a separate system of justice for drug offenders, 
one that does not rely on the key traditions of an adversary system of 
justice and due process -- a system where the defense, prosecution and 
judge work as a team to force the offender into a treatment program. These 
courts only rely on abstinence-based treatment.

They also rely heavily on urine testing, rather than focusing on whether 
the person is succeeding in employment, education or family relationships.

Drug courts often mandate 12-step treatment programs, which some believe to 
be an infringement on religious freedom, and they invade the 
confidentiality of patient and health-care provider. The health-care 
provider's client is really the court, prosecutor and probation officer, 
rather than the person who is getting treatment.

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