By Alan James Roscetti
The Niagara Falls City Court offers additional “Quality of Life” courts.
Last week I provided an overview of Mental Health Court to give our residents some insight and understanding of the system. This week I’d like to discuss Drug Court and its purpose.
In 1989, Drug Court was established in Miami in response to the crack epidemic. Jurists in Miami realized that the endless cycle of addiction, incarceration and recidivism needed to be broken to reduce drug use and drug-related crime.
In Niagara Falls, under the direction of Chief Judge, Mark Violante, Niagara Falls Drug Court was implemented in 1997. Since its inception, thousands have participated in it over the years. Many have successfully completed the program and moved on to a better lifestyle. The object of Drug Court is to identify defendants where substance abuse dependencies appear to have significantly contributed to their commission of crimes and, if eligible, place them in court-monitored treatment.
The basic concept behind drug courts involves a dramatic intervention by the court in cooperation with an entire team including the defense, prosecution, treatment, education, and law enforcement. In return for a promise of a reduced sentence, appropriate non-violent addicted offenders are placed in an individualized court-supervised treatment plan which is closely monitored by the judge. The rules and conditions of participation are clearly stated in a contract entered into by the defendant, the defense attorney, the district attorney, and the court. Weekly report dates with the court guarantees that defendants are keeping their end of the bargain, to comply with treatment and to refrain from using drugs. The threat of going to jail is sometimes the best inducement to get people addicted to drugs to quit.
The results have been largely positive and drug courts have gone into operation all over the country.
New York State leads the nation in the expansion and institutionalization of drug courts into daily court operations. The benefits of the program have been well recognized and documented. As of January 1, 2016, there were 141 drug courts in operation, 89 in criminal courts, 33 in the family court, 4 in town and village courts and 15 drug courts solely for juveniles. Through January 1, 2016, over 93,000 individuals have participated in New York State court drug treatment programs and over 42,800 have graduated. In addition, 867 drug-free-babies have been born to drug treatment court participants while in the program.
For more information, feel free to contact me at 716.308.1433