Today’s drug crisis, has touched nearly everyone in one way or another by tragic circumstances. As deaths continue to rise due to the widespread of opioids, drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, passing guns and car accidents.

This drug crisis is not only killing its users, but also has a large affect on crime rates since many users turn to criminal means to support their habits. It leaves many people feeling powerless, unsure of where or who to turn to for help. As a result, drug treatment courts around the country have emerged as critical means to curb drug use and criminal behavior, and most importantly, save lives. The Monroe County and Rochester City Court treatment courts are no exception.

The main concept behind drug courts involves a serious intervention by the court in collaboration with an entire team that includes the defense, prosecution, treatment providers, educators, and law enforcement. In return for a promise of reduced charges and sentences, eligible offenders are given the option of entering voluntarily into intensive court-supervised treatment. The rules and conditions of participation are clearly stated in a contract entered into by the defendant, the defense attorney, the district attorney, and the court.

The results have been overwhelmingly positive, and New York remains at the forefront of the drug court initiative.

New York State leads the nation in the expansion and institutionalization of drug courts. As of 2016, there were:

  • 141 drug courts in operation
  • 89 in the criminal courts
  • 33 in the family court
  • 4 in the town and village courts
  • 15 drug courts focused solely on juveniles

Through January 1, 2016, over 93,000 individuals have participated in New York State court drug treatment programs and over 42,800 have graduated. In addition, 867 drug-free-babies have been born to drug treatment court participants while in the program.

The roots of these successes can be traced right back to Monroe County, where Judge John R. Schwartz began New York's first drug court in Rochester in 1995. Currently, Monroe County Court Judge John DeMarco oversees drug treatment court for eight New York counties, and Rochester City Court Judge Jack Elliott oversees drug and mental health court for offenders in Monroe County. Studies show that those who complete judge-supervised treatment programs are significantly less likely to commit crimes again than those who serve prison time. The intent of the programs is to foster a personal transformation over a period of one to several years, spurred by the threat of prison for those who fail.

Although the system is always looking for ways to improve, analysis shows that our drug courts are successful. A recent study by the Center for Court Innovation in New York City found that while 40 percent of program participants in New York flunked; those who started it, including dropouts and graduates, were 29 percent less likely to commit a new crime over a three-year period than defendants who had nearly identical criminal histories and no contact with drug courts.

More important than the fact that these successful participants are saved from continuing in lives of crime, is the fact that their lives are being saved. If you would like more information on the drug intervention program or have any questions, please reach out to one of the experienced attorneys at Trevett Cristo.