According to a recent announcement by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), there are now more than 3,000 drug courts at work in the United States.
This new milestone “marks a 24 percent increase in the number of drug courts in the last five years.” In addition, there are currently more than 1,300 problem-solving courts addressing specific issues, including domestic violence, drunk driving, and alcohol- and drug-involved military veterans.
As part of its milestone announcement, NADCP released “Painting the Current Picture: A National Report on Drug Courts and Other Problem-Solving Courts in the United States.” Among the many benefits highlighted, the report notes:
- Drug courts served over 120,000 people in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available.
- Independent research shows that drug courts reduce both crime and substance abuse.
- The average drug court graduation rate increased to 59% in 2014—substantially higher than regular probation completion rates.
DUI Courts Make Progress on Drunk Driving Offenses
The growth of treatment court programs for DUI/DWI offenders has paralleled the growth in drug courts overall, and for good reason. According to the report, “On average, DUI courts reduced general recidivism and DUI recidivism by 12%, and the best programs reduced recidivism by 50 to 60%.”
In one example, DUI court participants in San Joaquin County, California, were significantly less likely to be involved in alcohol- or drug-related traffic crashes in comparison to similar probationers who were not in a treatment court program. The DUI court participants also had higher rates of compliance with court and program requirements.
The report also found evidence that DUI courts can actually help communities save money. While treatment and intensive supervision may be more expensive upfront, DUI courts “had lower total costs because they shortened the required time period for supervision and reduced the use of incarceration.” In fact, an evaluation of nine Minnesota DUI courts found an average of $2.06 in benefits for every $1 invested.
Problem-solving courts are a proven solution to reduce recidivism and improve community safety. Yet as of 2014 nearly half of U.S. counties lacked an adult drug court, and four out of five counties were without key specialty courts, including DUI and veterans treatment courts. Lack of funding and resources for treatment or supervision were cited as primary factors in limiting drug court expansion.