Drug courts benefit entire community

As a graduating senior at Gloversville High School and a member of Positive Options Project, I care about the future of my community.

This year is the 25th anniversary of drug court, the wonderful program that provides an alternative to jail time, which is beginning its 17th year of successful operation in Fulton County. This program presents an opportunity for people to seek help while contributing to the community, instead of serving a jail sentence. Eligible participants (non-violent drug offenders) are provided with treatment and other resources to get, and stay, sober. In return, the addicted individuals submit to random drug testing, regular court dates to check their progress, and being held accountable to the standards set by the court for helping their community, families and the court itself. Locally, drug court participants have volunteered in such worthwhile efforts as placing stickers on pharmacy bags to inform customers about safe prescription drug disposal.

In Florida in 1989, a group of justice officials decided the justice system wasn’t functioning to its full extent, and started a program to structure it better for those involved: That was drug court. Since then, the program has expanded across the country, having more than 3,000 locations. Drug court is the most effective justice intervention for treating drug-addicted individuals, with 75 percent of individuals remaining arrest-free at least two years after the program.

For taxpayers, such judicial interventions often seem to come with a burden. But these programs are actually saving taxpayer money. In fact, for every dollar invested, drug courts save about $3.36 in crime justice costs alone. It’s hard to ignore: These courts are really helping. Family reunification rates are 50 percent higher for drug court participants. Drug courts are six times more likely to keep individuals in treatment long enough to get better. Drug courts are fixing the parts of the justice system that we need the most. Everyone should understand these programs, so every American can have access to this opportunity.

POP is a student group formed through collaboration by GHS and ASAPP’s Promise, whose members use their influence to help their peers and the community make the best choices possible, encouraging healthy decisions about drugs, alcohol, gambling and many other issues.

For more information, visit: www.hfmpreventioncouncil.com; www.ASAPPsPromise.org; or the National Association of Drug Court Professionals at www.nadcp.org. You may also call Fulton County Drug Court at 736-5800.

TIM PLUMADORE

Gloversville