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Are drug courts effective?

When authorities in Colorado charge you with a drug-related crime, you may have concerns about potentially having to pay hefty fines and serve time behind bars, among other potential repercussions. While many of the state’s drug offenders do, in fact, wind up spending time in jail following convictions for drug-related crimes, some non-violent drug offenders are finding that they may be able to avoid jail time by instead enrolling in and completing a state drug court program.

Drug courts, though not yet available everywhere, give some drug offenders an opportunity to treat their addictions, which, in many cases, are the root cause of criminal behavior in the first place. According to the National Institute of Justice, drug courts can have substantial and positive effects on drug offenders who participate in them.

How drug courts work

If you are able to gain entry into a Colorado drug court program, you will most likely have to appear periodically in front of a judge or drug court administrator who can monitor your progress and make sure you hold up your end of the bargain. Typically, “holding up your end of the bargain” means you must stay clean throughout the program’s duration and submit to drug testing throughout, and you will likely also have to undergo substance abuse treatment as part of your program commitment. So, should you enter drug court, as opposed to going to jail or prison?

Proven benefits

According to about 10 years of research on one particular drug court program, those who effectively complete drug court are less likely to return to a life of criminal behavior after doing so. In one study, for example, about 40% of drug offenders in one county re-entered the criminal justice system within two years of committing their initial crimes before the county adopted a drug court program.

Once that county began making drug court available to its drug offenders, though, the felony re-arrest rate within that two-year period fell to only 12%. A similar study conducted in a different county, meanwhile, also revealed a significant decline, with the felony re-arrest rate two years after crimes falling from 50% to 35% once drug court became an option for offenders.

As someone facing a Colorado drug charge, consider finding out if drug court could be an option for you.

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