Drug courts were introduced in Texas in recent years as legislators sought ways to reduce the state’s massive prison population.
Texas lagged behind many other states in introducing drug courts but the program has expanded rapidly over the last decade.
In 2007, the Observer spoke to Judge Joel Bennett. For nearly two decades, Bennett routinely sent drug addicts to prison as a prosecutor and later as a judge in the district court in Austin.
The article said the judge knew he was accomplishing nothing. Incarceration would not help offenders with drug addictions. The same names would pile up in the paperwork on his desk. He said he felt the whole process was futile.
“What I saw was the same people returning to the system over and over again. And their children coming into the system. No one talked about breaking the cycle of crime.”
Bennett wanted a new way to free offenders from the cycle of drug dependency.
Since Bennett and another judge have headed up Travis County’s drug diversion court, everything has changed.
He pointed out the drug courts steer addicts into court-supervised treatment programs instead of into a prison cell. In a decade, drug courts like the one in Travis County have steered non-violent drug offenders with addictions into programs rather than prisons.
They say those who complete the programs offered in the drug courts seldom return to drug or substance dependency. The Observer spoke to four drug-court judges surveyed who said just one-in-10 graduates of the program commit new crimes.
The recidivism rate is a fifth of that associated with usual probation programs.
Drug courts have been used in Texas for more than 15 years. A law in 2001, made it compulsory for all jurisdictions in Texas with more than 550,000 people to apply for federal and other funds to set up drug courts.
Drug courts are mandatory in Tarrant, Travis, Dallas, El Paso, Harris, Hidalgo, and Bexar Counties.
These courts take non-violent offenders and sentence them to programs intended to tackle their addiction rather than punish them.
Both the Bush and Obama administrations enthusiastically embraced the concept of drugs courts. However, an article in the Washington Post said the courts will do little to reduce America’s high rate of imprisonment unless they deal with offenders who have committed more serious crimes.
At the Medlin Law Firm, we are aware of the wide range of sentences for drug offenses in Texas.
If you have been charged with an offense involving drugs in Fort Worth, please call us for a free and confidential consultation today.