A 2-1/2 year statewide study of the Minnesota drug court system, released in June this year, backs up with hard statistics what drug court proponents, including those in Brown County, have been saying all along - drug courts work.
Drug courts operate on the idea that the best way to deal with drug-based crimes is to focus on the drug use. People charged with drug-based crimes who opt for the drug court enter a program that features intensive chemical dependency treatment, education and follow up visits with the court. The aim is to help them avoid future criminal activity by cutting out the drugs.
The study by the State Court Administrator's Office examined two groups of offenders, those involved in drug courts and those who go through the regular justice system.
The results show drug court participants are less likely to re-offend - 26 percent were charged with new crimes after 2-1/2 years, compared to 41 percent who went through regular imprisonment.
The drug court participants functioned better in the community - they were more likely to be employed, to have high school or GED?diplomas, were more likely to own or rent a home, to have a valid drivers license and to pay child support.
And drug courts save money. Drug court participants spend less time in jail or prison. Over 2-1/2 years, the state spend an average of $3,189 less per participant on incarcerating drug court participants.
This is an important study, given the state's continuing budget concerns. This study, available at www.mncourts.gov/?page=494, shows that money spent on drug courts is money wisely spent. The Legislature should have no qualms about providing funding for the program.