While jail and prison sentences do have value, they also can have a negative effect on society. Receiving a drug-related conviction and spending time in jail can limit job, education and housing options, making it more likely the person will re-offend after returning to his or her community.
On the other hand, rehabilitation can help someone become a productive member of society, strengthening the community. According to the Arkansas Judiciary, specialty courts serve a rehabilitative function that research has proven to work.
Generally, a person is eligible who has committed a nonviolent offense and who meets the criteria for a drug treatment program. Participants must be willing to enter the program.
Oversight is an important component of any specialty court. The National Institute of Justice notes that a participant has a team that typically consists of a judge, prosecutor, attorney, probation officer, therapist and social worker. This team works with him or her to provide guidance, accountability and support so that compliance is more likely. Each participant must take random and regular drug tests and make frequent court appearances to help him or her stay on the right track.
Experts recognize that addiction is a health condition and not simply a behavioral issue. Therefore, drug courts require substance abuse treatment that includes individual and group therapy.
Drug courts often provide access to career opportunities, as well. A participant may receive education, training and job placement assistance. Re-entry programs and community partnerships connect participants to resources that help them find housing and other necessities.
Most drug court programs take around 18 months to complete. In most cases, the judge dismisses all or most of the charges so that graduates can start fresh with a clean record.