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Drug courts in Florida offer treatment instead of incarceration

Recently in Fort Walton Beach, law enforcement charged a man with multiple offenses, including possession of a controlled substance. According to NWF Daily News, the man had four Clonazepam pills sitting in a container when he was pulled over after failing to stop at a red light. The container was apparently in plain sight when the officer came over to the vehicle.

Option for treatment

When people in Tampa are arrested and charged with drug possession, they may be able to participate in a special program called a drug court. According to the First Judicial Circuit of Florida, this court seeks to provide treatment and help to people who are struggling with an addiction. Rather than handing down punishment, the drug court uses a collaboration of professionals to provide a support system that encourages people to overcome their challenges and become productive members of society.

How the court works

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office states that for people to be eligible for drug court, their charge(s) must be connected to substance abuse, they must be at least 18 years old and they must not have any felony convictions on their record. Additionally, the charge they face or have been convicted of must not be associated with violence. Once someone is admitted to the program, they go through an assessment where professionals examine the depth of the addiction and factors that have contributed to their use of drugs.

The next step is to participate in groups where education on drug addiction is provided, fellowship meetings and treatment interventions. People in the year-long program must go through routine alcohol and drug testing to make sure they are not still using and as they progress, they are provided with information about jobs and education. This education may include getting one’s GED or attending a vocational school to learn new skills. Additionally, people are placed into psychiatric counseling to address issues associated with the addiction and any mental health conditions they may be struggling with. If people successfully complete the program, the charge may be dropped or they may receive an early release from prison or add points to their prison time.

Success of drug courts

Over the years, there has been quite a bit of research done on how successful drug courts are. A study published in the Journal of Criminal Justice points out that drug courts can be effective in reducing recidivism. However, some courts have less success than others, especially if they allow violent participants into the program. The study also points out that drug courts may want to expand their eligibility to include people facing distribution charges due to the fact that in many cases, they have turned to dealing in order to support a very expensive addiction.

The drug court in Broward County has been offering treatment to Floridians for over 20 years and was the third drug court to be established in the U.S. Every day, almost 800 people receive services from the program. In Hillsborough County, the court has an established drug court for juveniles and a drug pretrial intervention court for people facing a drug charge for the first time. Therefore, people who are arrested for a drug offense may want to discuss their options with an attorney.

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