Significance of Drug Courts in the United States – CJUS 230 Final Research Paper

CJUS 230 Research Project – Final Research Paper Instructions

You must select a criminal justice topic of your choosing. You will then compose a thesis statement on this topic as you work toward your Final Research Paper.

The thesis statement must include the paper’s topic and an explanation of the position the paper will take in analyzing the subject. The thesis statement must clearly identify the major points of support for your position. The selected criminal justice topic must be sufficiently limited for the substantive content of a 4–6-page paper by presenting only 2–3 major points.

The thesis statement must be no more than 2 sentences long and must be a declarative statement rather than asking a question. The thesis statement must be simple and direct. The statement must take a position on a narrowly focused criminal justice topic. The Final Research Paper must develop an argument that is highlighted in the thesis statement and supported with solid academic research and analysis. Each facet of the thesis statement must be addressed and analyzed throughout the paper.

The body of the Final Research Paper must be comprised of 4–6 pages of content. The Title Page, Abstract, and Reference Page are not included in the page count. The introduction must include background information on the criminal justice topic, a well-written thesis statement, and a preview of points. The body must thoroughly support the assertions made in the thesis statement with the use of analysis and comprehensively developed subpoints and academic research. Each paragraph must address one issue and directly relate it to the thesis. The body must also be well-organized and use properly formatted headings. Information must clearly relate to the main topic. The conclusion must summarize the main headings of the paper.

Significance of Drug Courts in the United States – CJUS 230 Final Sample Research Paper

Since the turn of the 20th century, addictive drugs have posed an ever-looming threat to American society. Years of policy change initially failed to introduce positive change which then prompted legislators and government officials to lobby the introduction of fresh programs to address this crisis. Consequently, the so-called “war on drugs” was incepted in 1971 by the Nixon administration to combat the production, supply, and use of psychoactive drugs. The primary aim of this seemingly noble campaign was to avert the illegal drug trade that had permeated the United States and prevent new addicts from mushrooming in society. 

Nevertheless, the war on drugs is regarded as one of the biggest fiascos in American history. The campaign was largely unsuccessful, with most of its detractors placing the blame squarely on the interdiction and mass incarceration policy. This was further confirmed by the Obama administration after a public admission that the campaign had been counter-productive for failing to view addiction as a disease. The war on drugs also resulted in the disproportionate arrest of ethnic minorities from drug-infested inner-city neighborhoods resulting in a 60 percent increase in the number of inmates within the first 10 years of its implementation (Tiger, 2018, p. 24). Mandatory minimum penalties often meant that individuals found guilty of possessing or using controlled substances were sentenced to lengthy prison sentences which resulted in overcrowding. It is a well-documented fact overcrowding has a negative impact on inmates’ mental and physical health. Thus, drug courts were introduced to aid in the introduction of new criminal justice schemes which would ultimately work to reduce overcrowding in prisons. An evaluation of drug courts, their history, efficacy, and the wants vs. needs debate is critical to understanding their significance.

Defining Characteristics

           Drug courts within the United States are specialized divisions of the criminal justice system which implement a public health approach when dealing with drug offenders. Its scheme of operation is based on a model combining mental health wellbeing, social services with addiction treatment for drug offenders. Drug courts seek to introduce long-term recovery as a viable option for this select group of individuals to enable them integrate into society and avoid run-ins with the law. These judicially supervised dockets espouse treatment as a solution to the drug epidemic in the United States.

Read also Nonviolent Drug Offenders Should Not Be Imprisoned

Drug courts also include elements of parole where individuals who commit to participate in an addiction recovery program are monitored to determine their compliance. Persons who participate partially or fail to adhere to stipulation may be subjected to additional sanctions imposed by a presiding judge. Random drug tests and incarceration stints are common for individuals found guilty of contravening the program’s basic tenets. Subsequently, drug courts pursue a philosophy informed by the importance of breaking the addiction cycle while ensuring that participants do not become repeat offenders. Their presence is regarded as a welcome addition since it aids in the reduction of substance abuse, criminal activities and mass incarceration.

Historical Background of Drug Courts in the United States

           The idea behind the introduction of drug courts was first conceived during the 1980s at the height of the war on drugs. Within 10 years of its inception, caused a 60 percent increase in the number of individuals incarcerated across the United States for drug offenses (Nolan, 2017). The Regan administration was the first government to introduce drug courts back in 1989 to combat the crack cocaine epidemic in Miami. Any non-violent offender arraigned before these courts was offered treatment as one of the available options during sentencing. Drug courts have now been adopted across the United States and mainly situated in communities ravaged by drugs and substance abuse. Their increase has also been linked to a drastic reduction in drug-related crimes across state lines. This form of intervention aims to ensure that long-term change becomes a reality for offenders instead of subjecting them to punishment. Drug courts also seek to right the disastrous socio-economic effects of substance abuse. The productivity of addicts often dips as the federal government struggles to fund correctional facilities. Addicts are referred to treatment facilities as one of the main ways in which to reduce the recidivism rate. Offenders with a high likelihood of transforming their lives are identified during court proceedings and offered a guilty plea deal. Successful completion of this program assures offenders of a new slate devoid of previous drug-related charges. Originators of this intervention previously foresaw a future where children would no longer be separated from their families, vulnerable individuals face criminal charges and communities affected by drug addiction. 

The Efficacy of Drug Courts

           Drug courts have been hailed for their role in reducing the incarceration rate and prison population across the United States. Offenders are offered an alternative with the primary objective of allowing them to avoid serving time and improve their lives. The Drug Courts Program Office was among the first federal agency to acknowledge the impact of drug courts to the criminal justice system

           Drug courts have been instrumental in reducing the recidivism rate across the United States. Their success lies in the treatment programs which use a public health approach to cure addicts of substance abuse. According to Cooper, Peters, & Kushner (2014), drug courts were responsible for a 7.5 percent reduction rate of recidivism across the United States. Former drug users who successfully graduate from drug court programs eventually seek gainful employment and are rarely rearrested for similar offenses. Non-participants often end up continuing with the same behavior that landed them in prison in the first place and, therefore, increases the chances of being a rearrested exponentially

            Substance abuse has also reduced in the United States after the introduction of drug courts. Participants in drug court recovery programs gain an understanding of their habits and drug use as the origin of their problems with the law. Individuals who arrive at this realization are typically ready to transform their lives by kicking their destructive habits. Drug use reduces considerably after the intervention by drug courts which then goes a long way in reducing recidivism.

           Drug courts are relatively cheaper and bound to benefit the justice system in the long run. Costs associated with the actual arrest, booking, processing, and probation are virtually non-existent in drug courts which makes them an affordable option. Therefore, law enforcement, paralegals and attorneys save a substantial amount of money that would have been spent on court proceedings. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy even estimates that drug courts save the federal government approximately $12,000 annually (Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2017). These savings would be better spent on efforts to improve the condition of participants during the recovery process and providing them with opportunities for self-improvement.

Wants vs. Needs in the Drug Court System 

           The specialized status of drug courts often means that they are capable of superseding an offender’s request and place them in a recovery program. This is because officials are aware of the impact of substance abuse on individuals and their connection to criminal activity. For instance, Barry A. Hazle Jr.’s no-contest plea was rejected in 2006 after being found guilty of possessing methamphetamines, after which he was placed in a residential drug treatment program (Winston/RNS, 2017). Although the offender was strongly opposed to this particular option, the court went ahead and put him in a religious-based recovery program for his wellbeing.  

           Furthermore, the relative success of drug courts is attributed to its unorthodox intervention strategy. Drug courts follow a unique protocol that requires the participation of offenders in a collaborative effort to attain the desired goal. They strive to serve offenders best interest while, simultaneously, making certain that the community remains safe. Frequent drug testing keeps former offenders grounded which is critical to the program’s overall success. Non-compliance is dealt with swiftly and judicially, which reminds other offenders of consequences for every action. Graduates who succeed in overcoming their addiction soon become models who are then used by the courts to inspire others to effect long-term change. A transformation in behavior and attitudes is critical to the court’s success, eventually putting former offenders in a position to transform their lives. 


Drug courts are an integral part of the criminal justice system and praised for lowering incarceration rates in the United States. They offer a workable alternative for offenders with mental health issues and substance abuse to ensure they recover from their affliction. Drug courts are an effective alternative which ultimately reduces criminal activities, arrests, and recidivism among at-risk individuals.

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