Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ga. drug courts in the news AGAIN — but they aren't being praised this time

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 3:56 PM

This American Life host Ira Glass looks at two Georgia drug courts
  • "This American Life" host Ira Glass looks at two Georgia drug courts
The whole point of drug courts — as detailed in a recent Economist article about diversionary programs in Georgia — is to keep people out of prison who would be better served elsewhere. In turn, the state saves money on incarceration while reducing offender recidivism.

But an episode of This American Life scheduled to air this Sunday says that in at least two Georgia counties — Camden and Glynn, both in the extreme southeastern part of the state — drug courts are doing quite the opposite.

Here's a transcript of the 30-second promo (or, for the full effect, listen to it here in host Ira Glass' dulcet voice):

A 17 year old takes her parents’ checkbook and forges two checks, one for $40, one for $60. And she gets punished with 10-and-a-half years in and out of court, incarceration, drug treatment, thanks to a drug court that we believe is run differently than every other drug court in the country, doing things that are contrary to the very philosophy of drug court. Tiny crimes with huge consequences.

At a time when evidence has shown that — at least elsewhere in the state — drug courts have been successful by treating drug addicts rather than locking them up, Brunswick Judicial Circuit Court Judge Amanda Williams will have to answer to peculiarities in her program. The Economist, for instance, reported that Georgia's drug court participants had a 7 percent rate of recidivism versus 29 percent for drug users who were sent to prison. That article also said drug courts produce a $2.21 benefit for every $1 spent.

WABE 90.1 FM will air the episode on Sunday, March 27, at 7 p.m.

(H/T to atlawblog.com)

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