For many years, drug cases were simply treated as criminal cases. If you broke the law, you went to jail. That's the same punishment used for many other criminal actions, with the hope that those who went to jail would then change their ways when they got out. Jail could also act as a deterrent if people knew they could go and wanted to avoid it.
However, it quickly became clear that drug crimes were often something of a different nature. Was jail really the best option? Was it wise to treat these cases like other criminal cases?
The problem lies in drug addiction. While someone who gets arrested for drug trafficking may not cite addiction as the reason, a lot of possession cases do, in fact, come back to this disease. People get addicted to these substances and have very little control over their actions. They cannot break the addiction on their own. They may not have the money, the resources or the support structure.
Thus, the real reason for the criminal activity wasn't a disregard for the law. It was addiction. If you asked a lot of addicts about it, they'd tell you that they wished they never broke the law at all, but it felt like it was out of their hands.
Sending someone to jail for an addiction can be counterproductive. While they may serve their time, will they still be addicted when they get out? If they are, won't they go right back to the same things that got them arrested in the first place? This undermines the whole idea of jail as a deterrent or a punishment. It didn't reduce crime.
A focus on treatment
That's why Florida set up the first drug court in the United States back in 1989. This kicked off a whole wave of such courts all over the country. Very quickly, studies showed that crime actually fell with this new system.
The focus of the drug court is not punishment, but treatment. It gives some offenders -- not everyone qualifies -- a chance to go to rehab and do treatment programs. This can then help to break the addiction. If they do it, they don't face jail time.
It was a revolutionary system when it started, and it's still in use today. Treatment is the absolute key. It helps those who need it. It puts an end to criminal activity. It helps to make sure that people aren't getting out of jail and relapsing immediately.
Are you eligible?
You need to know all of your legal options when facing drug charges, including whether or not you can use the drug court program. Take the time to investigate it and find out what steps you need to take.