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Drug Court is a special court charged with the responsibility of handling cases involving drug-addicted offenders. This is accomplished through an extensive supervision and treatment program. Drug Court has the power to offer an individual an alternative to traditional court if they successfully complete a Drug Court supervised treatment. For "graduates" of the program, the court may dismiss the original charge, lessen the sentence, or offer a lesser penalty.
Drug Courts are based on negative reinforcement; the withdrawal of negative or unwanted factors to reward positive behavior. In these cases this is the removal of incarceration and/or fines for positive performance in treatment programs.
Sadly, people who are in need of treatment programs are not identified in the traditional court system. With the continuing increase in incarceration costs and the need for room in overcrowded jails, only 10% of persons who need treatment receive it in the traditional court system.
Studies regarding the use of drugs also suggest that some drug offenders utilize drugs in an attempt to self-medicate themselves for a psychiatric disorder. Individuals with mental illnesses are 2.7 times more likely to have substance abuse problems than individuals in the general populace. Individuals with substance abuse problems, particularly problems involving drugs other then alcohol, demonstrate almost a five–fold greater incidence of mental illness then the rest of the population.
The U.S. Department of Justice reported that incarceration alone does little to break the cycle of drugs and crime. One study, completed in 1993, found that a full 60% of police chiefs believe that police and other law enforcement agencies have been unsuccessful in reducing the drug problem in the United States.