Drug Courts Need to Treat Addiction as Health Issue, Defense Lawyers Say

Drug courts were created 30 years ago to offer offenders with substance abuse problems an alternative to jail. But now criminal defense lawyers say the drug courts need reform in order to accomplish their intended mission, reports the Ocala, Fla., Star-Banner.

“Drug courts were intended as a reform,” said National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers president Cynthia Orr, during a conference call with reporters today. “Unfortunately, many of these courts are conviction mills, which treat substance abusers as criminals and give them access to medical treatment only if they admit guilt and acquire criminal records.”

The group is calling for a treatment-based approach that addresses substance-abuse issues as a health problem and decriminalization of drug use. Doing so, it contends, could also reduce criminal justice costs.

Additional coverage:

Miami Herald (op-ed by Cynthia Orr): “Rethink how we fight drugs”

NACDL (press release): “Drug Courts Endanger Rights, Block Access to Needed Treatment for Drug Users”

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