The Future of Drug Courts

The drug-court movement has experienced tremendous growth since 1989. With over 1200 active courts and approx 500 more in some stage of planning, there appears to be no end to the growth associated with this movement. In the mid- to late-1990s, the idea of therapeutic problem-solving courts began to expand into other specialty courts dealing with issues other than primary substance abuse. Domestic violence, mental health, driving under the influence (DUI), tribal, university campus, child support, and re-entry courts were added to the growing number of adult, juvenile, and family drug courts. With an ever-increasing volume of evaluation data supporting the efficacy of these intensive intervention strategies, the model promises to expand into other special-population areas. Early prison release, prostitution, property offenses, impulse-related violent offenses, and parole or probation violations are all viable arenas for specialty courts.

Even though most of these specialty courts do not deal with substance abuse as the primary issue, drug testing is still a very important component. Statistics shows that more than 80% of the crimes committed in the United States each year are drug-related (6). That means either the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the offense, committed the offense in order to obtain drugs, or the crime included the manufacturing or distribution of illegal drugs. In each case, use of drugs or alcohol is at least a potential detriment to the long-term stability of any person involved in a therapeutic court. Drug testing, used in conjunction with a comprehensive continuum of treatment, case management, and community supervision, supported and coordinated by a caring and committed criminal justice system, provides the objective standard to support a wide range of specialty courts both today and into the future.

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