Drug courts are considered as an effective approach of solving problems related to alcohol and other abuse of substances in the judicial systems. They operate under a well-specialized model in which all the departments like: mental health, prosecution, probation, and law enforcement work together to help the non-violent offenders get restoration. This is important when closely monitoring the progress of the defenders and their response to the treatments prescribed (Lessenger & Roper, 2007).
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Characteristics of drug courts
There are some characteristics which makes these courts unique compared to the ordinary ones and which enhances the achievement of the set goals and objectives. First is a mutual link between various personnel thus they are all involved in any process going on. These include the public defenders, law enforcements, mental health, and social services. The courts are also characterized by their standardized assessment considered to discover the non-violent offenders. The staffs of these courts are recruited according to their areas of specialization; they must be trained in the fields related to substance abuse and other skills, which may be required in the non-adversarial environment. These courts use a system of modified approvals and incentives which would be necessary in enhancing the recovery of the behaviors and hold the defenders responsible for the non-compliant ways of doing things. The professional in these courts are expected to be updated on current events in the society to be able to handle any case. This requires them to be participating in trainings and seminars for improvement of their skills. They are expected to keep on carrying out assessments and evaluation to determine the effectiveness of their efforts in achieving their goals and objectives (Harris, 2007).
Elements of drug courts operations
A number of elements are considered in the effective operations of the drug courts, considered with the variation of the background and complication of the matters raised. These include: legal framework, eligibility criteria, recidivism, programming sanctions, and cost saving among other.
There are two commonly preferred models in drug courts: deferred programs of prosecution and past adjudication programs. Under the deferred models the offenders who meet their eligibility requirements are taken before the judges in drug court system before pleading for a charge. They are not allowed to plead guilty and if found to have completed the program are not taken throw further prosecutions. In the post-adjudication model, the offenders are given a chance to plead their guilty against the charges then their sentences remain suspended while they undergo the drug court program. The offenders who do not complete the drug court program are taken back to the criminal court awaiting sentences upon the guilty plea (Whiteacre, 2008).
Although these requirements are depended on the concern court, in all drug courts the handle only offenders whose tests for drug use is positive and are arrested with the charges of substance abuse.
Programming and sanctions
The programs in drug courts are expected to run between a period of six months and a year although some cases take longer than this depending on the complication of the condition. The programs are pronounced to be complete if the offenders are said to be drug-free and not committing any offence for a defined period of time otherwise they are expected to attend regular hearings with the judges and all other departments of the courts. Those who do not adhere to the regulations like participating in the treatment programs must remain in the custody but those who do not respond to the drugs as expected are accorded some special attention and have their treatment services improved (Hennessy & Pallone, 2002).
Those who are released from the drug courts are found to be free from use of drugs and from offences relating to the condition. These are better than those processed through the other traditional courts because they are rehabilitated to become more productive citizens.
According to the reports of the evaluations of the costs and benefits of drug courts, the courts save more taxpayer dollars compared to the other programs offering rehabilitation services or incarceration. Costs such as arrests, jail occupancy, and expenses on victimization are assumed. Not all offenders who are charged in drug courts would have been sentenced to prison, the average charges of any inmate under imprisonment is $ 23,000 per year while the cost of participation is $4,300 per head (Ekstrand, 2003).
Role of judges in drug courts
Unlike in the ordinary courts, the judges of the drug courts highly interact with the participants and create a rapport which is not expected to end at adjudication. Their partnership is expected to be less formal unlike the other traditional courts to enhance the understanding of the condition of the offenders hence pass a genuine sentence. Although they are expected to be trained on the skills of handling individuals under drug influence, the rules governing the ways of handling cases are a bit flexible and depended on the condition of the issue at hand. Thus, cases are handled depending on their level of complexity (Kennedy, Rhrib & Clark, 2007).
Drug courts are unique compared to the other traditional courts because of their specialization on the individuals associated with substance abuse. According to the research these courts have achieved more benefits compared to the others because of the reforms reflected in the society. The offenders handled by these courts end up being drug free and less offensive hence reduce the crime rates in the society. The services of these courts are less expensive compared to costs of similar services offered in other related programs like rehabilitation centers and incarceration.
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