Offenders Are Advocates
of Drug Courts
The federal government began supporting drug courts in 1995, when it made $12 million in grants available to local efforts. This figure has now risen to $30 million.
Drug courts find some of their strongest advocates in graduates like Tanya. "What drug court tells you is either you stay clean or you're going to jail, which I was tired of doing," she said. "A lot of addicts don't have anywhere to turn. Drug court gives you the resources you need."
Wanda King is a drug court coordinator in Visalia, Calif., a rural community about 140 miles north of Los Angeles, where methamphetamine is the drug of choice.
The participants in her court are all teen-agers. "We deal with people with a primary drug problem and a substantial history of drug abuse," King said. "We monitor them in every area of their lives and don't allow them to fall through the cracks."
Visalia's program consists of three phases. The first focuses on recovery from drug abuse. The second gets the teens to take responsibility for a lifetime of being sober. The third phase is aimed at securing the education or job training the juveniles need.
Visalia's drug court is using federal grant money to extend the program into offenders' homes, so that their families are included. Many of the parents are also drug users. Some of the teen-agers' parents introduced them to drugs, said King.
Yet a quarter of the teen-agers do so well that they graduate from the program as much as two months early. And according to King, the program's overall success rate is almost 90 percent.
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