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A courtroom is not a place where you would expect to find scenes
of celebration and tears of joy. Unless, of course, it is drug court.
This May, over 3,000 drug courts and other treatment courts
nationwide will celebrate National Drug Court Month and the most
successful justice innovation in American history. By May 31, thousands
of individuals who entered the justice system due to addiction
will receive life-saving treatment and the chance to repair their
lives, reconnect with their families, and find long-term recovery.
National Drug Court Month is not just a celebration of the lives that
have been restored by drug court. It sends the powerful message
that these programs must be expanded to reach more people in
need.
Nearly thirty years ago, the first treatment court opened its doors
with a simple premise: rather than continue to allow individuals with
long histories of addiction and crime to cycle through the justice
system at great expense to the public, use the leverage of the court
to keep them engaged in treatment long enough to be successful.
Today, treatment courts and have proven that a combination
of accountability and compassion can not only save lives, but can
also save valuable resources and reduce exorbitant criminal justice
costs.
Treatment courts have become the cornerstone of justice reform
efforts aimed at reducing incarceration and protecting public safety.
We can all agree that our most dangerous criminals belong in prison,
but without interventions like treatment court it can be difficult to
separate them from the men and women whose criminal behavior
is linked to an addiction or mental health disorder. Treatment courts
represent a compassionate approach to the ravages of addiction.
This year’s National Drug Court Month celebration signals that the
time is now to reap the economic and societal benefits of expanding
this proven budget solution to all in need. More communities
need drug courts and more people struggling with addiction need
treatment, not just incarceration.
Melissa Fitzgerald is the director of Advancing Justice, an initiative
to lead evidence-based justice reform. She appeared on the NBC
hit show, “The West Wing,” for 7

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