Drug courts are effective

April 10, 2011

Re: "Drug courts are not the answer" (op-ed, April 7). The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and Justice Policy Institute (JPI) advocate for the legalization of drugs such as heroin, methamphetamines and crack cocaine. It is no surprise, then, that they attack drug courts and ignore the mountain of scientific evidence that proves their efficacy. Their strategy is simple: tear down drug courts in the eyes of the public with the false message that nothing works. This could not be further from the truth.

Drug courts repeatedly demonstrate, under the most arduous of scientific evaluations, that we can successfully manage drug-addicted individuals in the criminal justice system through community-based treatment. Using advanced statistical procedures called meta-analyses, independent researchers from seven different leading academies have all concluded that drug courts reduce crime and return financial benefits to taxpayers that are several times the initial investment. The best drug courts cut crime rates in half and return $27 to their communities for every $1 invested.

One of the most powerful studies of a drug court to date was conducted right here in Baltimore. Baltimore Drug Court clients were found to spend about half as much time in jail or prison as other offenders, and were much more likely to have their jail sentences suspended as a reward for entering treatment. They also attended more than twice the number of therapy sessions, remained enrolled in treatment for several months longer, and committed far fewer new crimes.

Drug abuse and related crime is a serious topic demanding a far more sophisticated analysis, and respect for science, than DPA and JPI seem willing to give. This is beyond unfair. It is recklessly irresponsible.

Douglas B. Marlowe

The writer is chief of science, law & policy for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

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