As the Missouri Recovery Network emphatically notes, “Perhaps the biggest waste of state resources is spent on the incarceration of non-violent offenders who use, abuse, and are addicted to alcohol and/or other drugs” (source). Drug courts help alleviate this problem by blending accountability and justice with treatment services. They specialize in cases where substance abuse is the chief cause of the crime, attempting to break the cycle of substance abuse, crime, and incarceration. Today we’re focusing on the procedures and benefits of Missouri drug courts.
How Drug Courts Work
Drug courts employ a strict and intensive program that operates in phases of decreasing intensity. It includes treatment for substance abuse, case management, drug testing, monitoring, and supervision. Participants must report to hearings before a judge, who will issue sanctions and rewards as necessary. To help participants achieve success, drug courts may also employ family therapy, trauma therapy, mental health treatment, and job skills training. In addition, to ensure compliance, participants are frequently required to undergo random drug tests.
To advance through the program, the participant must follow all of the drug court’s requirements, including staying sober, meeting with their probation officer, attending court dates, submitting to random drug tests, and attending counseling sessions. In addition, depending on the drug court’s regulations and the participant’s circumstances, he or she may be required to complete community service, work toward a GED (if applicable), maintain/pursue employment, or find suitable housing.
Missouri Drug Courts
Did you know that the first drug court was founded in Miami two decades ago? Its formation was a response to the overcrowded correctional system in Florida, which was overwhelmed with non-violent criminals who had committed crimes related to substance use or abuse. Missouri adopted and embraced the drug court system in 1993, and today, it contains more drug courts per capita than any state in the U.S. (source). Missouri drug courts benefit all parties involved, including the offenders, their families, the criminal justice system, and the community at large.
Missouri Association of Treatment Court Professionals
The Missouri Association of Treatment Court Professionals (MATCP) “raises awareness, provides education, and promotes community collaborations for treatment courts across Missouri” (source). For example, the MATCP provides a Treatment Court Directory for the state of Missouri, training materials, and facts and figures. The website can also help you better understand the roles and responsibilities of treatment court professionals involved in the process, including the following:
- Judge: The judge, speaking directly to the participant, explains the program and process. When necessary, the judge will provide sanctions and rewards. He or she also discusses the legal aspects of the system, what the court expects of the participant, and what will happen if the participant fails or drops out.
- Prosecutor: The prosecutor evaluates offenders and decides who is eligible for the program, discussing “volunteering” for the drug court with those who qualify. He or she may also bear the responsibility of explaining the program to those who wish to participate and asking them to sign the required entry waivers. Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney have non-adversarial roles in the process.
- Defense Attorney: The defense attorney works with the offender (his or her client), explaining how the drug court program works and exploring it as one of the client’s options. He or she works with the best interest of the client in mind. In addition, if the client/participant is struggling or even failing in the program, the defense attorney will explain the situation and discuss the criminal charges the client will face if they do fail.
- Probation and Parole Officer: The probation and parole officer are responsible for supervising the participant, communicating with the treatment provider and court, and coordinating the participant’s schedule and activities. They provide case management duties and attend all drug court dates and staffing. In addition, they encourage and assist the participant in a variety of ways to help the participant succeed.
- Treatment Provider: The treatment provider supplies the treatment services to the participant. They may also refer the participant to special treatment services if approved by the court and required. One person must conduct an initial assessment of the participant (before the first court date), and another person will provide the treatment services. The treatment provider must also supply reports and attend all drug court dates and staffing prior to court.
Value of Missouri Drug Courts
Drug courts help participants learn the sobriety skills they need to return to their families and society as productive, healthy citizens. They address a variety of complications surrounding addiction as well, including mental health, child neglect and abuse, juvenile delinquency, and divorce. They work better than jail or prison and better than probation/treatment alone (source).
According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, “Drug courts reduce crime as much as 35% more than other sentencing options” (source). In accomplishing this, they also save money by keeping non-violent offenders out of prison. Treating four or five people in a drug court for a year costs the same as keeping one person in prison (source).
Over the years, Missouri drug courts have produced 8,500 graduates (source). They help people overcome dangerous addictions, reunite families, significantly reduce crime in communities, and save the justice system a lot of money. To further explore the benefits of drug courts, please review this previous blog post.
The Role of Drug Testing
Drug testing holds participants of drug courts accountable. Through testing, the court can identify anyone failing to maintain sobriety and issue a punishment for testing positive. The court can also customize the panel of tested drugs, schedule random testing, and employ different testing methods and technologies.
Tomo Drug Testing partners with treatment courts to create accurate, efficient, and cost-effective testing solutions customized for the unique needs of any judicial agency. We have experience working with Drug, DWI, Veterans, Mental Health, Family, and similar adult and juvenile courts. For more information, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help!