My thoughts on the 2008 Drug Court Conference

The theme of this year’s National Association of Drug Court Professionals14th Annual Training Conference, held recently in the “Gateway City”, was “Taking Drug Courts to Scale: Healthy Families Healing Communities.” This theme may be much more meaningful than it appears at first glance.

St. Louis at Night - Wikipedia

Webster gives us several relevant meanings for the transitive verb form of scale. For example, to reach the highest point; or to pattern, make, regulate, set, or estimate according to some rate or standard. Let’s examine these for a moment.

To reach the highest point. Seems straight-forward enough. In context, what is being stated here is that the drug treatment court approach works and we should take it as far as we can. I couldn’t agree more. Name your metric—crime, tax spending, recidivism, prison overcrowding—and you’ll find studies showing that, dollar-for-dollar, drug courts are highly effective.

To pattern, make, regulate, set, or estimate according to some rate or standard. Similar, but let’s look at this one a bit closer: pattern… or estimate according to some rate… There are plenty of rates that could be used to estimate the need for additional and expanded treatment court programs.

How about crime rate, incarceration rate, recidivism rate… or tax rate, unemployment rate, divorce rate… or even, rate of return, rate of change, or suicide rate? Many, if not all of these, could be useful in estimating the need for adding and expanding drug court programs on the local, state, and national level.

Another worthy mention from the conference is this question posed by former U.S. Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey: Do we believe our [own] rhetoric, when we claim as a nation that we want to end drug dependency and all the damage that it causes? Basically… do we put our money where our mouth is? On the contrary (at least here in Pennsylvania), more often than not, we put our money where our prisons are.

Do we really want to impact the scourge of drug dependency, or do we just want to make ourselves feel better by pretending that we do? Or is simply putting M.A.D.D. and D.A.R.E. stickers on our automobiles enough?

Hopefully, the message coming out of this 14th Annual Conference is that drug courts work. That they should be implemented widely until they become the rule rather than the exception. And that if we really want to impact drug dependency and related societal ills, we need to get serious at looking at what works and what doesn’t work. There is no time to waste; we should do these things now.

The tragedy is that until we do, many deserving addicts will be lost to the system—never getting the opportunity that drug courts provide—to recover, and return to a productive role within family and community.

Article: Rhetoric and reality

Definitions courtesy of the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

*Above image from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.



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