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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 1997202/307-0703



WASHINGTON, D.C.--More than 125 communities, including Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and Baltimore, will receive approximately $16 million in Justice Department grants to plan, implement or enhance drug courts, which allow communities to require nonviolent drug offenders to undergo intensive drug treatment in lieu of jail or prison sentences. The coercive power of drug courts combines intensive judicial supervision, mandatory drug testing, escalating sanctions and treatment to break the cycle of addiction and criminal activity in which many repeat offenders are caught.

"Drug courts allow professionals to intervene in the lives of individuals who are caught in a cycle of drugs and crime," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "I know from my experience in Miami that drug courts help addicts kick the habit and have a positive impact on communities throughout the country."

Drug court participants have substantially reduced drug use, and those who graduate from the program (ranging from 50 percent to 65 percent) stop using drugs all together. The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Drug Court Clearinghouse, operated by American University, reports that the average cost for the treatment component of a drug court program ranges between $900 and $2,200 per participant, depending upon the range of services provided. Savings in jail bed days alone have been estimated by some programs to be at least $5,000 per participant. Additionally, female drug court participants have given birth to more than 200 drug-free babies while enrolled in various drug courts. These babies could have been born with addictions that professionals estimate would result in social service costs of $250,000 per child.

"If we're going to stop low-level, nonviolent, addicted offenders from continuing their behavior, the criminal justice system has to catch their attention," said OJP Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson. "People in the system and outside it are often quite cynical about the traditional court process having an impact on these offenders, who seem to just cycle through at the taxpayers' expense. But that's what's so great about drug courts--they do it differently, and our research shows they have an impact."

Program success can be traced to the first-ever drug court initiative started in Miami, Florida. An evaluation of that court by the Justice Department's National Institute of Justice revealed a 33 percent reduction in rearrests for drug court graduates compared with non-drug court offenders. Research continues to show that drug courts reduce recidivism.

Seventy-nine communities each will receive up to $20,000 to begin planning new drug courts and 37 communities, including 14 that received drug court planning grants last year, will receive awards up to $400,000 to start new initiatives. In addition, 12 communities will receive up to $300,000 each to improve or enhance existing drug courts. The Justice Department will award approximately $16 million to these projects. Subsequent implementation and enhancement awards will be made later this year from existing applications. Some Fiscal Year 1996 funds are being combined with Fiscal Year 1997 funds to form the award pool. The President has requested an additional $45 million for drug courts in Fiscal Year 1998.

In Fiscal Year 1995, the first year the program was authorized under the President's 1994 Crime Bill, OJP provided grants to 64 communities totaling over $8 million to help 52 communities start drug courts and 12 expand previously established drug court efforts. In FY 1996, the Department made 16 additional implementation and enhancement grants totaling $8.5 million bringing the total amount spent on the program since its inception to roughly $33 million.

Drug courts use drug testing to ensure that program participants stay drug-free. Participants are subject to sanctions for failing to comply with their treatment regimens and receive incentives for progress. Continued failure to comply with program rules results in expulsion from the program and incarceration.

A list of grantees, contacts, and the amounts that will be awarded is attached. To obtain additional information about the drug court program, please visit the Drug Court Program Office's web site at:


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OJP 97-006

After hours page Doug Johnson at 202/516-6843