Martin Sheen Returns to Congress to Urge Funding for Drug Courts

Actor Martin Sheen returned to Congress this week to testify in favor of authorizing drug court funding for veterans in 2012. He asked legislators to expand drugs courts for civilians and veterans who are dealing with substance abuse.

Medill News Service reports that veterans’ drug courts are designed to help veterans who have committed low-level drug crimes to get substance abuse treatment, so they can stay out of the criminal justice system.

Sheen, who played a president on the TV show “The West Wing,” helped set up a civilian drug court system in Berkeley, CA, the article notes. He appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, asking for $88.7 million in funding for the courts.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration released its 2011 National Drug Control Strategy, which will encourage support for special courts for veterans with substance abuse issues and mental illness.

According to a Justice Department survey, about 60 percent of the 140,000 veterans in state and federal prisons have a substance abuse problem, and about 25 percent said they were under the influence of a drug when they committed their offense.

Sheen appeared before Congress in April to defend drug courts at a briefing sponsored by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Recent reports issued by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Justice Policy Institute say that drug courts cherry pick the criminals most likely to succeed, thus inflating the courts’ rates of success. They also criticize the power given to drug court judges and point to the instances where offenders who participate in drug court, but don’t recover quickly, end up with longer prison terms than they would have if they had pleaded guilty and avoided drug court.

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    July 25, 2011 at 4:43 AM

    I didn’t touch on the Veteran’s issue regarding drugs court – and I know plenty on this topic. Those poor guys – I’m specifically referring to the current wars Combat Soldiers – should never be lumped in with civilian addiction problems. They aren’t just coming home addicted to meth or heroin, they’re coming home with mTBI and PTSD and a whole new ballgame as to the drugs they have issue with. The only “treatment” these boys are receiving is massive doses of multiple psychotropic drugs known to cause suicidal and homicidal thoughts, loss with reality and violent outbursts. True to form of our Military Industrial Complex, (or Prison, where many of them are ending up) the drugs these soldiers are given to numb them through extended deployments, have not even start clinical trial phase. Drug court will have no damn clue how to even begin to address these mental health problems and these drugs which very often magnify psychosis. The way we treat our returning soldiers is absolutely unconscionable.

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    July 25, 2011 at 3:58 AM

    Another issue that isn’t considered here, in forcing drug court is ~ not by a long shot, is every person who’s arrested for drug possession or use, a drug addict and they don’t need intervention. I doubt I could come up with ten people under 65 or so, who can honestly say they’ve never used recreational drugs. Legalizing or at least decriminalizing, regulating and taxing drugs would keep tens of thousands, maybe even well over one hundred thousand productive and harmless people out of the system. That alone would save a staggering amount of money. We are currently spending an average of $50,000 per year, per inmate. And don’t think for a minute, those “rec users” aren’t getting arrested – the BUSINESS of the War On Drugs does not discriminate.

    Beyond whatever that crazy number is saving, the revenue of taxing would provide money to educate our kids long before they ever get to a first use – not that education will always eliminate a first use, but at least they’ll be informed and know that just because it’s a prescription as opposed to a street drug, that it can still have a deadly ending, as they know about tobacco now, due to the last ten years of banning it’s commercials and educating kids. For those that do have a problem, there will be genuine, effective rehab available to all, 24/7, regardless of ability to pay, when they’re ready, not because they’re forced and without the stigma and life altering consequences that come with the label of being a FELON. USA has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s incarcerated. That’s more screwed up than drugs are. And trust me when I tell you, the Industrial Prison Complex does not want to let go, Big Pharma does not want to let go and once they have you in their privatized, money generating system of being a convict and the insanity of drug switching as a remotely plausable way of treating drug addiction, if there’s any way they can keep you, they will – the Drug courts are just another scam of a corrupt system to keep making money. Drug use in itself should not be illegal when there’s no victim and no violence. Who is this crime against? Themselves? Yes, drugs are harmful, but so is attempting suicide and ya don’t get thown in prison for it. WE need to change our thinking of this barbaric practice of turning a health issue into corporate profiteering, by calling it a crime.
    Martin Sheen is thinking with the mind of a father traumatized by the nightmare of his child’s addiction and I can certainly relate, but there’s much more to be considered.

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    July 20, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    Drug Policy Alliance only wants to legalize drugs. Drug Courts are successful plain and simple. No concequences no recovery.

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    July 20, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    seems that the Drug Policy Alliance and the Justice Policy Institute is a bit confused or at best, has not spoken its true agenda. cherry picking clients is the only way to go. what would the point be otherwise? Rates of success? those have been “faked” since alcohol and drug programs started. judges need more power to do things that most tx people are afraid to do. you cannot believe how hard it is to say NO. don’t recover quickly? how long is to short, too long? i’ve seen people in drug courts for five or more years? is that too long? or not long enough?

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    Jim Robinson

    July 20, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    What the opposition to the Courts fails to discuss is how the offender is better off to get a conviction and release and hurry out to the street to commit another violation as opposed to one who stays a bit longer with the Drug Court and possibly gets some needed help.

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