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Why were drug treatment courts created?

For those facing drug charges, drug courts offer a treatment program and other options behind merely a stiff sentence. These courts have been around for decades, having started in Miami, Florida, in 1989, and it can be very interesting to look at how and why they were created.

Essentially, the use of cocaine was widespread in Miami at the end of the 1980s. Those working in the court system realized that the real issue, in many cases, was addiction. Even fines and jail time did not treat or break addiction, so the process became a cycle. People could be arrested and punished many times for the same crimes, but they would just commit them again when they got out.

As such, drug courts were created to help provide the treatment that those suffering from addiction really needed. Everyone would work together to utilize this option, from the defense to the prosecution to the law enforcement officers.

To make these treatment programs more attractive, the trade-off was that those facing charges would have their sentences reduced if they went into the treatment program as well. As long as the person stays in the program, he or she does not face stiff sentencing.

Though the courts started in Miami, New York is actually the nation's leader when it comes to the use of these drug courts, with 141 of them in operation in 2016. More than 93,000 people have started the program, and more than 42,800 have completed it.

If you're facing charges, you need to know about all of the options that are open to you.

Source: New York State Unified Court System, "Drug Treatment Courts," accessed Feb. 16, 2016

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Robert D. DiDio
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