Saturday, June 9, 2012

NIJ: Drug courts reduce recidivism

A study funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) found that alternatives to handling drug cases, such as specialized courts that usher more people into rehab, can sharply drop recidivism rates, scale back on overall crime and produce deep cost cuts in an overwhelmed criminal justice system, according to Youth Today.

The report comes as the nation is in somewhat of a split over how best to handle many criminal cases, including drug offenses.

As Massachusetts considers a crackdown on repeat violent offenders, the position by many lawmakers has been to ease drug penalties.

In Missouri, legislators passed a bill to create more parity in sentencing for powdered and crack cocaine offenses. In the push to cap violent and drug crime in the 1980s and 1990s, many states passed tough laws that skewed penalties for different types of cocaine, with the result being more minorities – and especially blacks − were locked up for longer periods of time, reported Youth Today.

Many states, and even Congress late last year, have revisited those laws, pulling back in hopes of reducing prison populations and the high costs of policing, the courts and incarceration.

According to Youth Today, the upside of drug courts include a decrease in drug relapse, a drop in reoffending and lower overall criminal justice costs as offenders were eased back into society, something that is expected to help steady state budgets that were so wrecked by the down economy.

Among other findings, the research released by the NIJ found:

• About 40 percent of drug court participants reported less criminal activity, compared with 53 percent of offenders who went through traditional courts.

• Fewer rearrests were reported for drug-court participants than offenders of similar crimes who were processed through criminal court. The difference was 52 percent to 62 percent.

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