Drug courts offer sensible alternative to prison

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Colorado and California have loosened their drug laws in the name of "medical marijuana," and the issue is poised to come up in Nebraska as well.

Few of us would advocate expanded availability of mind-altering drugs, but there's a good argument that too much law enforcement effort and court time is spent dealing, ineffectively, with drug violations.

Drug violations need to be taken seriously, but a growing system of "Problem Solving Courts," specifically created to deal with drug issues is a better approach than simply relegating the cases to standard criminal courts.

The latest is the 8th Judicial District, which includes O'Neill in north-central Nebraska.

These specialized courts usually pair intensive addiction treatment with judicial oversight. In drug courts, people plead guilty with the understanding that their sentences will be deferred for the program. If they don't complete the program, they are sentenced for their original crimes. If they finish successfully, prosecutors then ask judges to void the convictions.

Drug courts exist in the state's most heavily populated counties -- Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy, as well as in other districts around the state.

Such specialized courts serving the Kearney and Grand Island areas have shown success as well, with a 75-80 percent success rate.

And they're no easy way out. Many offenders say the intensive treatment and accountability make a drug court sentence tougher than prison.

Like the Work Ethic Camp program, however, it gives cooperative participants a new chance at life.

It's unclear whether our district, the 11th Judicial District, is being served by a drug court. The coordinator of the state's problem-solving courts said only one district, the 5th, was not yet served by a drug court, but one was being planned there. A check with the local court, however, turned up no evidence of one in operation in this district.

Whatever the case, a drug court needs to be established in our district, or to become more active and visible, if it already exists.

Too much legal time is being devoted to cases that would more appropriately be handled in an enforced drug treatment system.

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    There is actually an even easier solution to this. Legalize all drugs. If you care about personal freedom whatsoever this should be your outlook anyway. Anything else is simply following some self delusional philosophy.

    -- Posted by Damu on Wed, Jun 23, 2010, at 6:59 PM
  • The drug war is a total failure doesw not work and is a gianyt rat hole we throw billions down each year. I have ahd this discussion many times I am not sure about the decriminalization of all drugs but I am all for Marijuana laws being changed.

    -- Posted by Chaco1 on Thu, Jun 24, 2010, at 7:42 AM
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    That is really the only way to stem the violence were seeing from Mexico. Along with stemming the huge inflow of citizens into the prison system for victimless crimes.

    People will do drugs, its human nature. The government shouldn't be out to protect us from ourselves, only from each other. If Rob goes out and smokes some crack great, he shouldn't be tossed in jail for it. If he goes out and robs someone for money for that crack then boom jail. It's a fairly simple scenario really.

    If you want an interesting ongoing experiment into it look at Portugal. They decriminalized all drugs way back in 2001. Guess what? There society isn't crumbling around them. In fact they actually have better numbers than we do.


    -- Posted by Damu on Thu, Jun 24, 2010, at 12:34 PM
  • Well we are likely to have an experiment in California soon since it is poised to legalize Marijuana for anyone over 21 very soon.

    -- Posted by Chaco1 on Fri, Jun 25, 2010, at 8:24 AM
  • Why does everyone want to stop at weed. Really, in this argument, what is wrong with meth, acid, coke, or heroin? What about glue sniffing? Who has the right to decide the limits, if any, on drug legalization?

    -- Posted by Hugh Jassle on Sun, Jun 27, 2010, at 5:08 PM
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    @CPB Personally, I don't. I think everything should be legal. Based on the current evidence for our 30 year endeavor into trying to stop the influx of usage of drugs we can pretty much say it's impossible.

    The drugs you listed can be dangerous, but so can alcohol. The thing is people will do the drugs regardless of there legal status. We however are simply feeding the prison complex by locking anyone up who does them, not to mention vying more towards a police state.

    -- Posted by Damu on Sat, Jul 17, 2010, at 8:29 AM
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