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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 1997202/307-0703


Substantial Progress Reported

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The number of drug courts tripled during 1997 according to a newly released Justice Department report. Drug courts provide intensive judicial supervision, treatment and graduated sanctions for non-violent offenders to help them break the cycle of addiction and crime. The Drug Court program was authorized in President Clinton's 1994 Crime Act.

There are now 371 drug courts either implemented or being planned in 48 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and two federal districts. Eighty-four of these courts have been operating for at least two years; 120 have been operational for less than two years; more than 10 programs will become operational in the next three months; and 167 are in the planning process, including 18 in Native American jurisdictions in 10 states.

"Drug courts have made great strides over the past eight years to help drug-abusing offenders to stop using drugs and lead productive lives," said OJP Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson. "From this new report, we can highlight not only program successes, but also challenges related to establishing drug courts. Any jurisdiction interested in establishing a drug court will profit from examining these lessons learned."

The survey reports that recidivism among drug court graduates occurs at a much lower rate than that of similar offenders who receive traditional jail sentences and no treatment.

Criminal justice system professionals estimate that at least 45 percent of defendants convicted of drug possession commit a similar offense within two to three years of their release from jail. In comparison, less than 4 percent of the individuals who complete drug court programs have been rearrested for drug offenses.

Also, over 300 drug-free babies have been reported born to female drug court participants while enrolled in drug court programs. Had these mothers continued to use drugs and had drug-addicted infants, experts estimate that care and treatment for each child would have cost a minimum of $250,000 per child during the first few years of the child's life. By the time the child reaches age 18, the costs related to hospital care, foster care and special education could reach as high as $750,000.

The information is included in the 1997 Drug Court Survey Report, a four-document set, which provides a comparative profile of 93 of the 204 existing drug courts nationwide. The report, prepared by the American University's Drug Court Clearinghouse, includes data related to drug courts, implementation issues, and comments from over 250 law enforcement and criminal justice professionals involved with drug courts.

Volume One of the survey contains general information about drug courts, provided primarily by drug court judges and judicial staff. Volume Two provides information about the activities of prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement officials and correction agency administrators involved with drug courts. Volume Three focuses on treatment and rehabilitation services provided to drug court participants and includes comments from treatment professionals involved with drug courts. Volume Four provides perspectives from 256 individuals involved in the final planning stages of 53 drug courts.

In Fiscal Year 1997, the Department of Justice provided over $30 million to 181 jurisdictions to plan, implement, or enhance drug courts. In Fiscal Year 1995, the first year of the program, OJP provided grants to 64 communities totaling over $8 million for drug courts. 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. The Department has received $30 million for the drug court program for FY 1998.

To obtain a copy of the 1997 Drug Court Survey Report, contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service at 1-800/851-3420. For additional information about the drug court program or OJP and its programs, visit OJP's web site at:

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OJP 98-011

For Additional Information contact: Doug Johnson at 202/616-3559