It is a widely held belief in the society that people who commit crimes must receive punishment for their actions, in the hope that the punishment provided shall deter them from committing any more crimes down the line. However, while it is definitely vital to provide punishment for diverse types of criminal activity, it also is important to understand that some defendants in the criminal justice system are victims themselves. As per Judge Charles Burns, many of these individuals require treatment and guidance way more than a stint in jail.
Judge Charles Burns sheds light on drug court programs
Drug Court programs are basically an alternative to conventional criminal courts. They aim at providing valuable, lasting assistance to people caught in the vicious cycle of addiction. Many of such programs are instrumental in bridging the gap between criminal justice and therapeutic treatment approaches for defendants with drug dependencies. Drug Court programs are usually meant for non-violent, repeat drug offenders, and aid in lowering the risks of continuing drug abuse and possible future crimes. Drug court programs generally allow individuals to enter long-term drug treatment and agree to court supervision instead of receiving a jail sentence.
Participants who are able to effectively complete the drug court programs usually have their underlying criminal offenses dismissed or expunged. On the other hand, in case a participant fails to complete the program, their case gets processed through the traditional justice system.
The very first drug court in the United States opened in 1989 in Miami, Florida. This court was meant to address how often individuals would cycle in and out of prison owing to drug addiction. Today there are more than 4,000 drug treatment courts across the country as per the National Drug Court Resource Center (NDCRC). Adult drug courts are among the most prevalent treatment court. It, in fact, makes up about half of all treatment courts in the United States. Since 1989, drug court programs have expanded from serving only adults to include even Juvenile drug treatment courts, DUI/DWI courts, Family treatment courts, mental health courts, and more.
If an individual is struggling with drug addiction, they are highly likely to even commit crimes to support their addiction. These crimes can range from robbery to credit card fraud. Moreover, drug addicts are at a higher risk of becoming victims of other crimes themselves. In the opinion of Judge Charles Burns, when addicts are provided with the opportunity to pursue sobriety in a therapeutic treatment environment, they get the much needed chance to not only break their addiction and patterns of criminal activity, but also protect themselves from harm.
Judge Burns’ (W) RAP program is an alternative sentencing approach for individuals who have committed non-violent drug related offenses. Since 2018 the Cook County treatment court, known as the Rehabilitative Alternative Probation Program or RAP, has partnered with the Cook County Housing Authority to provide housing vouchers to participants and graduates. The program has placed 16 individuals in housing and is considered a national model for addressing housing instability for treatment court participants.