Drug Courts Cut Crime, Recidivism, Prison Costs, International Study Finds

Researchers who looked at drug courts in 12 countries issued a ringing endorsement of their effects on crime and costs to society, saying the concept of offering addiction treatment to drug offenders rather than prison has succeeded in countries from Belgium to Suriname.

The report, “Establishing Drug Treatment Courts: Strategies, Experiences, and Preliminary Outcomes ,” was prepared by researchers at American University and released by the Organization of American States' Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission. Researchers studied drug courts in Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Chile, United Kingdom, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico, Norway, Suriname and the United States.

The study (PDF) concluded that drug courts reduce local crime and recidivism; lower incarceration costs; and provide addiction and related services to offenders, including healthcare, housing, and family support.

Maintaining adequate resources for operations was the biggest challenge facing drug courts internationally, researchers found.

“This study is important because until now we had no real idea of what was going on, no way for countries to network with each other or see what common issues they had in their courts and how to address them,” said Caroline S. Cooper of the Justice Programs Office at the School of Public Affairs at American University.

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