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Strategies for Fighting Meth

Drug Courts
  What are drug courts?
  What are the key components of drug courts?
  Do drug courts work?
  Does Illinois have drug courts?
  Is there funding, training, and technical assistance for drug courts?
  How can I find out more about drug courts?
What are drug courts? Back to top

Drug courts are innovative programs designed to provide drug-addicted defendants with successful drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration. Drug courts are supported by the White House, by Illinois statute, and by judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, treatment providers, and law enforcement professionals across the country.

A drug court is a special program – usually within a standard criminal court – that channels non-violent drug-addicted defendants into highly structured and closely monitored drug treatment programs. Drug Court participants commit to treatment and counseling, agree to abide by the rules of the drug court program, face frequent and random drug testing, and participate in regular court appearances. The offender is forced to deal with his or her substance abuse problems (or face jail time), but is also afforded the types of assistance, support, and encouragement that studies show are critical to recovery from drug addiction.

Defendants who complete all the requirements of the program and “graduate” from drug court may have the charges against them dropped (if they entered drug court before any trial or other adjudication) or have their sentences reduced or eliminated (if they entered drug court after pleading guilty to one or more offenses).

Drug courts mandate treatment. Particularly in meth cases, coerced treatment is often only way the addict will access help. Studies show that coerced treatment yields the same, if not better treatment results by motivating clients to stay in treatment longer. Drug courts make treatment opportunities available that would not otherwise be afforded for meth addicts.

What are the key components of drug courts? Back to top

The Illinois statutes that encourage the formation of drug courts (730 ILCS 166 and 705 ILCS 410) incorporate “ten key components” of drug courts developed by the Drug Court Standards Committee of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. These ten key components are as follows:

  1. Drug courts integrate drug treatment services with justice system case processing.
  2. Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting participants’ due process rights.
  3. Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the drug court program.
  4. Drug courts provide access to a continuum of drug treatment and rehabilitation services.
  5. Abstinence is monitored by frequent drug testing.
  6. A coordinated strategy governs drug court responses to participants’ compliance.
  7. Ongoing judicial interaction with each drug court participant is essential.
  8. Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness.
  9. Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective drug court planning, implementation, and operations.
  10. Forging partnerships among drug courts, public agencies, and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances drug court effectiveness.
Do drug courts work? Back to top

Yes. Research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse shows that:

  • Drug courts provide more comprehensive and closer supervision of the drug-using offender than other forms of community supervision.
  • Drug use and criminal behavior are substantially reduced while clients are participating in drug court programs.
  • Criminal behavior is lower after program participation, especially for drug court graduates.
  • Drug Courts generate cost savings, at least in the short term, from reduced incarceration, reduced criminality and lower criminal justice system costs.
  • Drug Courts have been successful in bridging the gap between the court and the treatment and public health systems and in spurring greater cooperation among the various agencies and personnel within the criminal justice system, as well as between the criminal justice system and the community.

In an evaluation of the effectiveness of drug courts as compared to traditional judicial procedures, the Drug Court Clearinghouse and Technical Assistance Project found that the drug court model yielded a significant decrease in recidivism. Courts that use conviction and incarceration approaches reported a recidivism rate of 45 percent, while Drug Courts reported an average recidivism rate of 5 to 28 percent.

The savings offered by Drug Courts is substantial. The Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates that Drug Courts yield a savings of $21,000 annually when the average cost per participant is $2000 and the cost of incarceration is $23,000.

Does Illinois have drug courts? Back to top

Yes. In the state of Illinois, there are many drug courts in operation. You can see the current list of drug courts in Illinois at:

Is there funding, training, and technical assistance for drug courts? Back to top

Yes. For example:

  • The Administrative Office of Illinois Courts assists court services departments and/or judges in the establishment of drug courts. They also offer research and strategic planning services. For more information contact the Division of Probation Services by phone at (217) 785-0413 in Springfield or (312) 793-3250 in Chicago.

  • The United States Justice Department provides funding for drug courts. Detailed information is available online.

  • The National Drug Court Institute provides training and technical assistance. Details are available at

Additional information on funding, training, and technical assistance for drug courts can be found by clicking on the links in the next section, "How can I find out more about drug courts?"

How can I find out more about drug courts? Back to top

National Association of Drug Court Professionals
National association providing education, research, and scholarship for drug courts and other court-based intervention programs.

Drug Court Technology Resource Center
An online forum for drug court practitioners offering tools and information for implementing programs.

Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)
BJA provides leadership and assistance in support of local criminal justice strategies to achieve safe communities. BJA programs emphasize enhanced coordination and cooperation of federal, state, and local efforts.

National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS)
NCJRS is a federally funded resource offering justice and substance abuse information to support research, policy, and program development worldwide.

Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC)
AOIC offers technical assistance, research, and strategic planning to Illinois courts. To learn more about their support of drug courts contact the Division of Probation Services by phone at (217) 785-0413 or by mail at 3101 Old Jacksonville Rd., Springfield, IL 62704.

Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA)
ICJIA is a state information resource dedicated to improving the administration of criminal justice. This Web site offers information, research and analysis, policy and planning resources, and grants administration.

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