Pubdate: Thu, 31 May 2007
Source: Lahaina News (HI)
Copyright: 2007 Lahaina News
Author: Barbara-Ann Keller


Since the late 1980s, drug courts have been developed to respond to
the costly and time consuming approach of dealing with nonviolent,
substance abusing offenders that overwhelm the criminal justice
system. In contrast to the traditional "revolving door" approach, drug
courts have provided an effective solution to drug and drug-related
crime through the innovative use of comprehensive supervision, drug
testing, judicial monitoring and sanctions and incentives. Though
there are now over 1,900 drug court programs nationwide, individuals
continue to go unserved.

Within the State of Hawaii, drug court programs can be found on the
islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu. A variety of drug
court programs are available for those residing on those islands,
including adults within the criminal court system, and adults and
juveniles through the family court system. These programs are unique
and sensitive to the cultural population of each of the islands while
meeting the components of drug court programs nationwide. The design
and structure of drug court programs are developed at the local level,
reflecting the unique strengths, circumstances and capacities of each

Within Hawaii, over 225 individuals actively participated in adult,
family, and juvenile drug court programs last year, yet some drug
courts within the state continue to have a wait list of 50 individuals
or more.

In the interest of public safety and the overall well-being of our
communities, when addressing those that are not only drug addicted but
also criminal offenders, the goal not only becomes to build a
drug-free lifestyle, but also to end their criminal behavior. The
question becomes, will these criminal offenders commit fewer crimes
after being incarcerated or receiving treatment? Even during brief
exposures to treatment, almost all addicts will use fewer drugs and
commit less crime than they would have otherwise.

Prison populations continue to grow along with reconvictions of
crimes. Nationwide reconviction rates for drug offenders have been at
47 percent and higher after release from prison. As of June 2006,
Hawaii's adult drug courts had a reconviction rate averaging just 8
percent for all graduates since the first program in Hawaii began in

Drug courts protect public safety, provide treatment, and turn the
tide of addiction.

It is clear that drug courts work but also notable that they need to
be able to grow to meet the expanding number of substance using
offenders nationwide. The number of substance users/abusers in America
is high. At the time of arrest, it is estimated that two-thirds of
adults and half of juveniles test positive for illicit drugs and/or
alcohol. Of the 14 million Americans that were arrested in 2005, it is
estimated that 9.3 million offenders were under the influence at the
time of arrest.

It's time to expand the winning formula of drug courts to address
these others in need.

Support our local drug court programs to meet the expanding number of
substance using offenders within our own State of Hawaii.

Barbara-Ann Keller

Hawaii Advisory Commission on Drug Abuse and Controlled Substances
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake