Two Decades Later, Broward Drug Court a Shining Example of Helping Defendants

The criminal justice typically isn’t forgiving. Let’s face it: The court system It is designed to punish — not really help — those who are convicted of a crime.
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But in Broward County drug cases, the system is a little different. There are opportunities for people charged with drug offenses to be handed help instead of a long sentence behind bars. And as Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know, Broward County’s Drug Court is one area where the criminal justice system shines.

Many defendants charged with drug offenses are simply addicted to the drug and can’t find a way to live without it. But instead of locking them up in a prison with violent offenders, it makes a lot of sense to try to help them get over their addiction through accountability, treatment and a support group. Many of these people have no other support or help offered to them. They may be addicted to drugs, and for some, it’s likely they have no family or friends to reach out to them.

Most of them can’t hold down a job because of the drug problem they have been arrested for. But the problem doesn’t go away simply by putting someone in a jail cell. In fact, it’s more expensive to house them long-term in a prison than to provide a way out.

The Sun Sentinel recently wrote about how Broward County Drug Court was turning 20 and still has maintained itself as a model for other programs regionally and statewide. Each year, 1,000 people graduate from drug court having met the requirements of group counseling for nine months, drug testing and other things to keep them clean. It costs $1,000 to put a person through drug court for the $24,000 it costs a person to be housed in jail for the same period.

The program started as a gamble with little money. Many defendants failed out of the program and were re-arrested. But officials pursued it and continued trying to make it work. Eventually, they made the necessary changes and it is a success.

Many people have gone through the program without a conviction for a drug offense, but with the tools to get out from a bad situation. This is one program that works and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys hope that officials can figure out other programs that can help up front rather than simply put people into a cell for years at a time.

The debate is ongoing about whether spending money on the upfront costs of treatment and job skills is more important than spending billions on jails and prisons. Many county jails in Florida have had ongoing expansions to keep up with the rise in inmates. But an alternative would be to invest some of that money into programs to help people improve their lives.

If convicts can learn skills, get education and improve themselves, then they will be less likely to resort to crime. It takes an investment and in many cases, the local community is all that is around to help.

If you are arrested in West Palm Beach or elsewhere in South Florida, contact Leifert & Leifert at 954-523-9600 or 561-988-8000 for a free consultation.

More Blog Entries:

TSA Agents From Palm Beach International Arrested in Drug Case: September 14, 2011
VA Medical Center Raid Nets 17 Arrests for Drugs in Riviera Beach: August 24, 2011
Additional Resources:

Broward County Drug Court a model program after 20 years, by Sun Sentinel Editorial Board

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