Drug diversion courts around the country offer offenders a chance for redemption, rather than recidivism. After acknowledging guilt for crimes like low-level dealing or stealing to support addictions, addicts can volunteer for nine to 18 months of urine testing, group therapy, mandatory sobriety meetings, intensely supervised by a judge. Those that don't make it through, can end up in jail. But if the program is completed, the offender transforms from a criminal to a drug court graduate, supported by invested judges, and congratulated by a supportive courtroom.
Today's New York Times weighed the pros and cons of the program. Proponents of that drug court say that not only is treatment more compassionate than prison, but it saves taxpayers money! To see how, and for some arguments against the practice
Recidivism rates, aka the number of people getting sent back to prison, is cut by 10 to 20 percent among participants. Keeping addicts from coming back to pricey prison helps cut government costs.
Critics have diverse opposition – some say that requiring a guilty plea compromises the rights of defendants, and some think giving treatment slots to criminals takes resources away from other addicts who seek help. Still others say the judge's supervision is paternalistic and degrading.
If treatment works better than prison, should the government just decriminalize drugs?