On March 1, The New York Times ran a front-page story on the recent push to create Federal Drug Courts for addicted offenders. The piece highlights the work of Federal District Judge John Gleason who has operated a Drug Court for over a year in Brooklyn, NY. Judge Gleason recently issued an opinion stating: “Presentence programs like ours and those in other districts mean that a growing number of courts are no longer reflexively sentencing federal defendants who do not belong in prison to the costly prison terms recommended by the sentencing guidelines.”
Judge Gleason’s program is one of several Federal Drug Courts that have been established in recent years. The Times points to the success of Drug Courts at the state level as allowing these programs to gain traction and helping to further changes in Federal sentencing guidelines. The article reports that the Department of Justice has “supported additional changes to the federal sentencing guidelines to permit the use of drug or mental health treatment as an alternative to incarceration for certain low-level offenders and changed its own policies to make those options more available.” Deputy Attorney General James. M. Cole released a statement last week supporting Drug Courts as a critical part of this strategy. “We recognize that imprisonment alone is not a complete strategy for reducing crime,” he said. “Drug courts, re-entry courts and other related programs along with enforcement are all part of the solution.”
Drug Courts continue to demonstrate unparalleled success at reducing drug-abuse, crime, and recidivism while saving money; there is no doubt that they will continue to influence sentencing reform at the state and federal level. NADCP was honored to contribute to this story and we thank Federal Drug Court pioneer Judge Keith Starrett for lending his expertise to this important piece.
Outside Box, Federal Judges Offer Addicts a Free Path
By Mosi Secret
Published: March 1, 2013
|Emily Leitch of Brooklyn, with her son, Nazir, 4, was arrested |
for importing cocaine but went to “drug court” to avoid prison.
Federal judges around the country are teaming up with prosecutors to create special treatment programs for drug-addicted defendants who would otherwise face significant prison time, an effort intended to sidestep drug laws widely seen as inflexible and overly punitive.
The Justice Department has tentatively embraced the new approach, allowing United States attorneys to reduce or even dismiss charges in some drug cases.
The effort follows decades of success for “drug courts” at the state level, which legal experts have long cited as a less expensive and more effective alternative to prison for dealing with many low-level repeat offenders.
But it is striking that the model is spreading at the federal level, where judges have increasingly pushed back against rules that restrict their ability to make their own determination of appropriate sentences.
So far, federal judges have instituted programs in California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. About 400 defendants have been involved nationwide.
Click here to read the full article.