drug court

Expert Says Drug Courts Reduce Crime

Apr 17, 2015
Patrick Mansell / flickr Creative Commons

Drug courts in several New Hampshire counties allow some non-violent offenders to avoid jail and treat their addiction. The courts are growing across  the state and earlier this week lawmakers heard from a national drug court expert. Dr. Doug Marlowe is the chief of science, law, and policy for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. He spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello.
 

Emily Corwin / NHPR

While addiction and related crimes are on the rise in Grafton County, the county’s Drug Court is struggling to fill enough seats.  That’s even though clients who get a drug court offer can avoid incarceration, get access to affordable high-level addiction-treatment programs, and often have their conviction vacated after completion.

It's Lonely In Here

By John Phelan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Drug courts are supposed to save taxpayers money: one year of intense treatment and supervision costs about a third as much as a year behind bars.

But it still requires money, up front.

Now, after squeezing four years out of a federal startup grant, Rockingham County is wrestling over how to fund the program.

Michael Flanagan/Flickr CC

The Bureau of Justice Administration has approved funding for a new drug court in Nashua, but has rejected a grant for the same program in Manchester.

Hillsborough County Superior Court had applied for two three-year, $325,000 grants.

Each would have funded drug courts in the state’s two largest cities, but, earlier this month, only Nashua’s was approved.

Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Ken Brown says while he’s disappointed, the Manchester court did receive funding for a similar program called Project HOPE.

Sarah McGovern via Flickr CC

An unofficial drug court in Nashua is celebrating both its first program graduate and a federal grant that will allow the program to continue.

Drug courts allow nonviolent criminals to avoid jail time and instead get court-ordered treatment, therapy and other help. Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Jacalyn Colburn told the Telegraph that she started an unofficial version last year with funding from the Greater Nashua Mental Health Center, and later applied for a federal grant.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  About 80% of the people behind bars in New Hampshire have substance abuse issues. It’s a growing problem and one way the justice system is trying to address the problem is with drug courts—where nonviolent offenders have their sentences suspended if they take part in treatment. Five counties now operate drug courts and efforts are underway to start two more in Manchester and Nashua. The program could help reduce recidivism rates.


It’s important to note, firstly, that the cost of incarcerating someone in state prison is about $32k and in county jails about $35k. Experts say that ideally, drug courts operate on a budget that has a per capita cost of about $8-12k. Any less than that and participants may not be getting enough supervision or critical aid in education, transportation, medication etc. Any more than that and it’s probably time to bring more participants into the program. The challenge many drug courts face is funding.