Capitol Words a project of the Sunlight Foundation

  • and

National Drug Court Week

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell

legislator photo

Mr. President, I begin my statement today thanking the various individuals and organizations that support the drug court programs. I have always been a strong supporter of drug court, and wish to express my pleasure with the ``National Drug Court Week'' events that are scheduled in Washington, DC this week. Recognizing the importance of practitioners who work on drug courts and the significant contributions that drug courts have made, and continue to make, in reducing drug use and crime in our communities is extremely important. I believe in the success of the drug courts and wish to acknowledge the dedicated efforts of drug court professionals.

Drug Courts are revolutionizing the criminal justice system. The strategy behind drug courts departs from traditional criminal justice practice by placing nonviolent drug abusing offenders into intensive court supervised drug treatment instead of prison. Some drug courts target first time offenders, while others concentrate on habitual offenders. They all aim to reduce drug abuse and crime.

Drug court programs have expanded from the original 12 in 1994 to around 400 today. Drug courts provide comprehensive judicial monitoring, drug testing and supervision, treatment and rehabilitative services, and sanctions and incentives for drug using offenders. The success of the drug court system is well documented. More than 70% of drug court clients have successfully completed the program or remain as active participants. Additionally, the cost of drug court programs are significantly less than the cost of incarceration and traditional court systems.

In my home state of Colorado the drug court movement is growing. Started in 1994, the Denver Drug Court assigns defendants to one of three tracks. Tracks 1 and 2 are community supervision and treatment tracks. Track 3 is a serious offender incarceration track. These tracks establish the different type of programs that are offered to various offenders.

Approximately 75% of all drug cases are appropriate for the community supervision track. At any given time, approximately 1500 cases are under court supervision. An analysis of post-conviction progress reviews of offenders under Track 1 or Track 2 demonstrates that 67% of those individuals complied with the Drug Court Program and did not use any illegal substances. Since the graduation of the first class in July 1995, the Drug Court has successfully graduated over 500 individuals. Of the 100 graduates who have been out of the Drug Court for one year or longer, only 10% have been rearrested for a felony offense.

Last year, General McCaffrey and I had the opportunity to observe the Denver Drug Court. Through this experience I was able to see first hand the judicial procedures surrounding drug courts. I was impressed with Denver's Drug Court procedures, and believe in the success they will yield.

I am pleased with the success of the Denver Drug Court program and support the growing programs within Colorado. I believe the success of drug courts is well documented and strong Congressional support should be given to the rehabilitation of future drug offenders. Traditional incarceration has yielded little gains for our drug offenders. Costs are too high and the rehabilitation rate is minimal. The drug courts of America are an excellent way to make strides forward in our fight against drugs. I commend the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) in their planning and sponsoring of ``National Drug Court Week'' events here in Washington. The recognition of this excellent program and promotion of its initiatives is well deserved.