Editor’s Note: The article below was produced as part of the Social Justice News Nexus, a program launched this year by Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications with a two-year grant from the McCormick Foundation.
Will Drug Courts Ease Prison Overcrowding?
Drug courts are becoming an increasingly popular topic of conversation among elected officials as they scramble to find solutions to punitive sentences for those charged with low-level drug-related crimes.
A large majority of these nonviolent offenders – with dependencies on alcohol, prescription and street drugs – are particularly hard hit with sentences that can lead some to life imprisonment.
In an exclusive interview in early February, U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin said he was “absolutely” in favor of the use of drug courts as an alternative means to incarcerations for low-level non-violent drug offenders. He added that money saved from imprisonment costs would be funneled into the use of more of them.
“What we’re trying to do is focus this money back into drug courts, which bring in people who would otherwise be prosecuted. [People] who they would say, ‘This isn’t criminal. This is an addict. Let’s deal with them that way.’ Do it for veterans. I think that makes more sense if you deal with a person whose real crime is addiction. Let’s get to them early before the addiction becomes even worse.”
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