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20 Years of Success May Not Save OR Drug Courts

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 By Deb CoursonContact
May 18, 2009

Portland, OR – The nation's drug court programs celebrate their 20th anniversary this month, including Multnomah County's, the second-oldest in the country. The programs in dozens of Oregon counties around the state are designed as alternatives to incarceration that save taxpayers money. They are in jeopardy because of the state’s economic crisis, according to Denise Welch, communications director for Oregon's Partnership for Safety and Justice.

"Oregon might make nearly $100 million worth of cuts to community-based addiction treatment in the coming months, but drug courts just don’t work without access to treatment."

The drug court model depends on that local addiction treatment, along with the oversight of a judge to allow people to avoid a drug-related conviction and give them a chance to turn their lives around. Addiction treatment budget cuts are among those proposed as the state deals with what’s estimated to be a $4-billion budget shortfall over the next couple of years.

It can cost $100 a day to keep a person in a county jail, says Welch, while it costs under $10 a day to educate, treat and rehabilitate someone through a drug court. She hopes that money-saving comparison can help save funding for addiction treatment.

"Cutting effective programs that not only reduce crime but save dollars seems like a step in the wrong direction. We’re hoping Oregon doesn’t turn its back on 20 years of success."

There are almost 2,000 drug courts across the country.

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