TUESDAY, JULY 22, 1997202/307-0703


WASHINGTON, D.C.--Forty-seven jurisdictions, including Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego, will receive Justice Department grants totaling over $12 million to establish or enhance drug courts that allow nonviolent, drug-addicted offenders to plead guilty to charges and receive voluntary drug treatment in lieu of going to jail. In Fiscal Year 1997, the Justice Department now has provided more than $28 million to fund over 160 drug courts.

"Since its authorization in the President's 1994 Crime Act, the drug court program has demonstrated the value of its niche in the criminal justice system," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "Drug courts have a strong track record showing how the leverage of the courts helps drug-addicted offenders accept their addictions, get treatment, and live better lives. Drug courts are helping individuals become stronger and communities become safer."

Research continues to show that drug courts reduce recidivism. The "Summary Assessment of the Drug Court Experience," recently released by the American University's Drug Court Clearinghouse and Technical Assistance Project, reports that criminal justice professionals estimate that at least 45 percent of defendants convicted of drug possession will commit a similar offense within two to three years. In comparison, recidivism rates among drug court participants have ranged between 5 and 28 percent, based on the variables associated with the population targeted by the drug court.

Earlier this year, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) awarded approximately $16 million to help 79 communities begin planning drug courts, 37 communities start new initiatives, and 12 communities improve or enhance existing drug courts.

"Drug courts give nonviolent offenders a chance to stop using drugs and make a contribution to their communities," said OJP Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson. "Drug courts treat offenders and provide them with the skills and, in some cases, the education they need to obtain employment while living drug-free lives. These individuals are given a choice--drug-free and crime-free lives or jail--and a majority choose to go straight."

The Drug Court Clearinghouse and Technical Assistance Project also reports that there are operational drug courts in 38 states, the District of Columbia, and one territory. In addition, since 1995, 11 states have either enacted or have under consideration legislation dealing with establishing or funding for drug courts. One state has implemented a statewide drug court program.

The grants announced today, and some made earlier this year, include OJP's Native American Drug Court initiative. This year OJP has awarded over $1 million to support 10 drug court planning grants and seven drug court implementation grants to Native American Tribes under this initiative.

In Fiscal Year 1995, the first year of the program, OJP provided grants to 64 communities totaling over $8 million to help 52 communities start drug courts, five to implement new initiatives, and 12 to 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 about $45 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 see the Drug Court Program Office's web site at:

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OJP 97-102

After hours page Doug Johnson at 202/516-6843