Defending drug courts in the worst possible way

Via Drug Policy Alliance:

Washington, D.C. – At a briefing on Capitol Hill Thursday, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) will enlist actor Martin Sheen and others to respond to two new critical reports: the Drug Policy Alliance’s Drug Courts are Not the Answer: Toward a Health-Centered Approach to Drug Use ( and the Justice Policy Institute’s Addicted to Courts: How a Growing Dependence on Drug Courts Impacts People and Communities (

The briefing also follows a recent exposé, by weekly public radio show This American Life, of a Georgia drug court that has tied up people in the criminal justice net for years – often for cases that elsewhere would have resulted in short probation terms. After forging two checks on her parents’ checking account when she was 17, one for $40 and one for $60, for example, Lindsey Dills ended up in the Glynn County drug court for five and a half years, including a total of 14 months behind bars – and then, when she was finally kicked out of drug court, she faced another five-year sentence for the original offense, including six months in state prison. Another Glynn County drug court participant, Kim Spead, was incarcerated (at a cost of $17,000) for failure to pay $1,500 in fees – even though she had successfully graduated the program nearly two years earlier.

“The drug court phenomenon is, in large part, a case of good intentions being mistaken for a good idea,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director in Southern California for the Drug Policy Alliance, who contributed to the report. “We’re concerned – and the data show – that many people who enter a drug court may actually wind up incarcerated for more time than if they had not entered drug court to begin with and that many people who end up in drug court do not have a drug problem but are being ordered to drug treatment anyway, filling up limited space that should go to people who actually need and want treatment.”

“Drug courts have helped some people, but they have also failed many others and focused resources on people who could be better diverted to less resource-intensive options, like probation, and/or received drug treatment outside the criminal justice system,” Dooley-Sammuli added.

I’m sure that there are some people who have been helped by drug courts, but I’m glad that they are undergoing scrutiny. For too long, there’s been this “drug courts are good” feel-good viewpoint that seems to have prevented critical analysis. Certainly drug courts are not good in all situations and they are certainly not the solution to the “drug problem.”

What I find amusing is that the National Association of Drug Court Professionals is bringing out Martin Sheen to talk about how drug courts saved his son Charlie Sheen’s life.

The idea of having a policy for the entire country based on what works for Charlie Sheen is freakin’ hilarious.

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24 Responses to Defending drug courts in the worst possible way

  1. Chris says:

    Send people who don’t need treatment to treatment, then the public can complain about paying for treating addicts and having drug offenders getting off easy. Meanwhile, the government gets to arrest more people for longer but tries to appear compassionate saying “we ended the drug war already” to try and make themselves look good. Brilliant. They’re really good at finding ways of making money while pissing everyone off and avoiding blame.

  2. DdC says:

    based on what works for Charlie Sheen?

  3. Rookie says:

    If Charlie Sheen is a Drug Court success, then there should be no question that these courts are a total waste of money and resources..

  4. malcolm kyle says:

    I actually agree with them; We should all do what works for Charlie

    What is the alternative? A strong case can be made for full legalization of cocaine and heroin, on a par with alcohol and tobacco. (For a sampler, see these items from the Drug Policy Alliance, the Economist, and the Guardian.) Short of that, a demand-related approach that treated drug addiction as a public health problem, not a law-enforcement problem, would produce less violence abroad and fewer unintended consequences at home than present US policy. At any rate, that is the answer you come to if you look at the problem in terms of Econ 101 and Hayek.

    more here

  5. kaptinemo says:

    “National Association of Drug Court Professionals”

    I’m sure you can almost smell the earnest intent to maintain themselves on the public dime courtesy of their lobbying for what amounts to an evolutionary dead-end, as such courts are creatures of the largesse that continues to be lavished upon certain sections of government at a time when fiscal belt-tightening is becoming a political hot-button.

    Said it before: drug courts are another bell, lever, button, buzzer, etc. on something that already resembles a Rube Goldberg machine in desperate need of dismantling.

  6. Cliff says:

    But, but…how does Charlie Sheen have time to go to rehab? He is too busy WINNING (!!!one11eleventy), and being a Vatican warlock assassin alchemist, with tiger blood.

  7. ezrydn says:

    I’d rather hear Charlie’s, rather than Martin’s, assessment of the great and glorious drug court.

  8. Servetus says:

    The drug court idea probably looks good on paper. But once the program gets handed to some authoritarian or cult-freak sadomoralist judge, its flaws become immediately apparent.

    Removing all the authoritarians, sadists, sociopaths and religious fanatics from the judicial system would drain it of most of its key personnel. The court and prison systems are the pond where all these miscreants gather to mingle and spawn. The pond contains piranha, not goldfish. Any program such as drug courts must take this into account. A court system is no place for someone with a drug problem.

  9. allan420 says:

    Charlie Sheen has a life?

  10. Peter says:

    Judge Amanda Williams: poster child for sado-moralist…

  11. kaptinemo says:

    OT: As expected, the Mex cartels are branching out and going intercontinental.

    From BorderlandBeat comes 3 Sinaloa cartel members face death penalty in Malaysia

    • allan420 says:

      and if I’m not mistaken Kap, the Latin DTOs are firmly established in Africa as well.

      Because of the United States’ crack down on terrorism across the globe, the usual ways to receive funding have become blocked. State sponsorship of terrorism is not as common and government and counterterrorism forces have disrupted the chains of communication between potential donors.

      “More and more terrorist organizations are having to find other ways for funding,” Braun said, citing kidnapping for ransom and knock-off designer clothes as potential sources of money.

      But even though he said pulling off a successful terrorist attack “doesn’t cost a great deal” — the September 11 attacks are estimated to have cost only $500,000 — the upkeep of a successful organization is pricey because of living costs, among other things.

      Braun said the way forward for the international community to “drive a wedge” between these two networks are not going to be easy or cheap, either.

      Establishing rule of law and expanding United States law enforcement in the region are two of the most important things the country can do to make the most positive impacts, he said.

      Other than that, Braun said the country can use its most powerful weapon: the reputation of the American judicial system.

      And then this piece from the CSM:

      Air Al Qaeda: Are Latin America’s drug cartels giving Al Qaeda a lift?

      It’s known as the Coca Cola plane. In early November, drug traffickers landed a Boeing 727 in the Malian desert in Gao state and offloaded as much as 10 tons of cocaine. Then, rather than fly it back across the Atlantic to Latin America, they simply burnt it, treating it like a used Coke can.

      The terrain of northern Mali is stark desert, and a haven for Islamist insurgents with close ties to Al Qaeda. Initially, investigators thought the plane had crashed in the desert on take off.

      But now, based on the fact that the plane was largely intact, many experts suspect that the drug cartels – perhaps in coordination with their Al Qaeda partners – burnt the plane deliberately.

      “That shows you the strength of the drug cartels, and how much money they have,” says Rinaldo Depagne, a West Africa expert at the International Crisis Group in Dakar, Senegal. “It’s like a plastic [Coca Cola] bottle to them. When you are done with it, you just throw it away.”

      According to UN reports, nearly 60 percent of the cocaine sold in Europe transits through weak West African states such as Mali, Niger, Mauritania, and Guinea Bissau

    • allan420 says:

      and I should have added this one from CNN (it’s older, Sept of 2009):

      Latin American drug cartels find home in West Africa

      The situation has gotten so out of hand that tiny Guinea-Bissau, the fifth-poorest nation in the world, is being called Africa’s first narco-state. Others talk about how Africa’s Gold Coast has become the Coke Coast. In all, officials say, at least nine top-tier Latin American drug cartels have established bases in 11 West African nations.


      “The exponential rise in the number of consumers has made Europe the fastest-growing and most-profitable market in the world,” said Bruce Bagley, dean of the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Miami.

      While the European market has been expanding, use in the United States has declined from its peak in the 1980s, the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime said in its 2009 annual report, issued in July.

      “Cocaine use prevalence in the USA is 50 percent lower than it was two decades ago, while Spain, Italy, Portugal, France and the United Kingdom have all seen cocaine use double or triple in recent years,” the U.N. report said.

      About 1,000 tons of pure cocaine are produced each year, nearly 60 percent of which evades law enforcement interception and makes it to market, the report said. That’s a wholesale global market of about $70 billion.

  12. allan420 says:

    And drug courts… like peeing into a strong wind…

    • DdC says:

      Drug Courts via Rehabs & Pisstastes vs
      Prison & Probation via Rehabs & Pisstastes. + tax.
      Front and Back of a Three Dollar Bill
      Perpetuating the demons to perpetuate the profits.

  13. Dante says:

    Charlie Sheen is representative of the success of drug courts like Iraq is representative of the success of the hunt for WMD’s.

  14. Voltear says:

    Drug Courts (sic) have been used for too long to support the appearance that authorities have something to throw at the “drug problem” that seems reasonable, compassionate, and intelligent, everything that Drug Courts are not. Drug Courts have become a way for local judges and prosecutors to experiment with their misanthropic ideas on real humans, as this Georgia judge has, and to vent their raging anger over young lives lost to what are really Drug War-effects but which they see as drug-caused.

    We could move forward from here if we somehow were to use this as a foundation for evolving US Drug Courts towards something resembling the Portuguese model of “Drug Court”. How likely is that? They’ll fight progress every step of the way.

  15. Chris says:

    This Saturday at Hash Bash I get to see John Sinclair speak and participate in this event for the first time.

  16. what's next... says:

    Whore Court? Most politicians could qualify for that one.

  17. Buc says:

    Just the fact that drug courts exist show the perversion and unnatural nature of drug laws. We need special courts because there are so many people being rounded up by America’s biggest gang.

    Hopefully, someday, we can send some members of America’s biggest gang to psychological counseling courts to ask them why they felt the need to act so sadistic against people that are non-violent.

    And, you know, if they can’t recognize what they’re doing is wrong, or if they can’t pay the fines associated with psychology court, well… incarcerate them to teach them a thing or two.

  18. vicky vampire says:

    Yeah I have been hearing for years about Cocaine appetite in Europe being quite large.

    Drug Courts seems Authorities from what little I read on occasion praise them then say maybe they are not really worth it after all some counties are cutting back funding for them in certain areas,but then complain funds are low to keep so many incarcerated it a never ending drama we know the solution I not need to say it it obvious. Oh well,when will madness end.

  19. Nikolai says:

    I’s worthy of note that celebrities are not subject to the same criminal justice system that the general public are.

    The chances of you or i being treated the same as Mr. Sheen is slim to none.

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