Drug Court: A Better Alternative to Incarceration for Youth

Attendance at music festivals, or “raves”, has been increasing for the past decade, and this has been correlated with the rise of young adults being found guilty for possession of controlled substances. In the cities where raves are being held, drugs are being brought into the local communities and impose a threat on not only the safety of the public, but most importantly the healths of the young adults choosing to engage in activities involving drugs. These people are taken to court to be punished by being sentenced time in prison or expensive fines.

However, there is an alternative punishment that seeks to help individuals turn their life around for the better. The drug court, which is a program that can help protect the overall health of the public, deserves a chance to be fully utilized by communities to help drug users and to protect communities from problems associated with drugs. It was created to combat incarceration by reducing crime rates from groups that use drugs or could potentially use drugs, through education. The program is a chance for individuals to learn from their mistakes and protect the public by helping drug users through treatment and keeping them from being incarcerated.

The drug court helps those convicted of a drug crime to become educated on their behaviors. Imprisonment by itself is not a complete answer to reducing drug-related crime.  According to Mosi Secret of the New York Times, the drug court practices primary prevention by educating offenders and being a less expensive alternative to incarceration. A variety of tasks are given by judges to drug offenders to keep them away from the environment that initially got them into trouble. Offenders must  agree to be overseen by a parole officer, partake in addiction treatment, and fulfill community service hours. Having an offender participate in community service can help them see the impact that they can have on their community and change the way they are viewed by the public by showing how they want to change as an individual. Participating and completing all tasks gives an individual the opportunity to have their case dismissed and expunged from their criminal record, reduce their sentence, and possibly have no sentence as a punishment.

Finally, the drug courts help addicts go through treatment. The drug court is one of the few interventions that have reduced the rate of relapse among participants by about ten percent. This program rehabilitates drug users in hopes that it helps them long-term. The goal of the drug court is to incentivise individuals toward personal transformation. This alternative to prison is cheaper and can also benefit the community when offenders must do community service as part of their drug court agreements with the judge and parole officer. According to Erik Eckholm of the New York Times, the drug court is the fastest growing intervention in the criminal justice system.  

Overall, the benefits of the drug court are what public health needs to help individuals charged with drug crimes avoid time in prison. Through the drug court, individuals are given a second chance to learn from their mistakes by exposing them to a more positive environment. Thus, is an effective defense mechanism against the rise of drugs in local communities.


Dominic Hoang is a fourth year public health major. He can be reached at hoangdk@uci.edu.