ST. LOUIS TODAY
American taxpayers would save more than $46 billion if drug addicts now
in prison were instead
treated, according to a study released Friday at a national convention of
drug court professionals. Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a former U.S.
drug czar, and actress Melanie Griffith joined experts in calling on
lawmakers to increase funding for such courts. "This is not a war on drugs,"
McCaffrey said. "This is a problem for our families in America. In order to
turn drugs around in this country, we're going to have to treat those 1.5
million people who are addicted.". . .
The study from the Urban Institute in Washington found that about 3 percent
of arrested addicts are referred to a drug court, which offers supervised
treatment to nonviolent offenders whose records are expunged if they
complete the program. "Most addicts need something more than being
warehoused," said Judge Charles Simmons Jr., a drug court judge in
Greenville, S.C. "Drug courts are putting families back together, and they
are decreasing crime at a tremendous savings to taxpayers."
Housing an inmate in prison can cost up to $40,000 a year while drug court
treatment costs up to $3,500 per offender a year, Simmons said. McCaffrey
said 15 years of research has yielded definitive proof that drug courts
significantly reduce crime by as much as 35 percent. He said legislators and
the public may get behind the system once they understand its cost savings.