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Louisiana drug courts promote treatment not punishment

Each year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services surveys tens of thousands of Americans 12 and older to monitor drug use. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows information about nationwide use of illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The realization that many Americans were addicts prompted states throughout the country, including Louisiana, to develop drug courts.

According to the government survey, 24.6 million U.S. residents used illegal drugs in 2013. Another 136.9 million or more than half the 12-plus population identified as alcohol drinkers. Not everyone who admitted indulging in these behaviors was dependent upon or abused drugs and alcohol, but a significant portion did.

The government estimated 21.6 million Americans were drug or alcohol dependents or abusers – 8.2 percent of the entire population. More than 20 million individuals were in need of substance abuse treatment but did not get it. Many unhealthy, drug and alcohol addicts end up in court, accused of drug offenses or other crimes.

Louisiana has 50 drug courts that work to assess, treat, monitor, rehabilitate and educate qualified participants. The court, in conjunction with a group of specialized community team members, work together to undo the damage caused by addiction. When the probation-like process works, drug courts break the abuse or addiction cycle and defendants are relieved of criminal charges and imprisonment.

The government benefits by saving costs associated with trying and incarcerating a defendant. Graduation from drug court also increases the odds a defendant won't make a subsequent trip through the legal process. The education participants receive helps them successfully reestablish family ties and return to the community, without the long-term burden of a criminal record.

A defendant's effort in the program must be 100 percent to reap benefits -- successful completion equals freedom. A criminal defense attorney can describe program qualifications and advise what it could mean for your case.

Source: Louisiana Supreme Court, "Drug Courts" Oct. 07, 2014

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