Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Drug Courts

Throughout 2014, NADCP commemorated the 25th Anniversary of Drug Courts. On Friday, April 11, we convened a national celebration at the site of the nation’s first Drug Court: Miami, Florida. Over 500 miles away, as the Miami celebration was getting underway, NADCP Board Chair Judge Keith Starrett and Board Member Judge Chuck Simmons joined Attorney General Eric Holder for a graduation at the Federal Drug Court in Charleston, South Carolina.

As part of the 25th Anniversary celebration, the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams featured an in-depth look at Drug Courts on Friday night in a segment that brought viewers inside the Putnam County, NY Drug Court. The next day, National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition featured an interview with NADCP CEO West Huddleston about the 25th Anniversary of Drug Courts. By the end of the weekend, millions around the country had learned why Drug Courts are now considered the foundation for criminal justice reform sweeping the nation.

These events marked the first of several 25th Anniversary celebrations to take place throughout the year, including the 2014 NADCP Annual Training Conference taking place in Anaheim, California from May 28-31. To see highlights of the celebration in Miami, read the Attorney General’s remarks, and view national news coverage.


A statement on the 25th Anniversary of Drug Courts:

Twenty five years ago, the first Drug Court was launched in Miami, Florida, sparking a fundamental change in how America responds when a drug addict or alcoholic is arrested. Today, Drug Courts are the most successful response to addiction in our nation’s history. Over 2,840 Drug Courts are in operation in all fifty states and U.S. territories, successfully treating 142,000 drug-addicted individuals a year. Since 1989, Drug Courts have saved 1.3 million lives and billions of tax dollars, forever changing the course of a predominate “lock-em up” philosophy in America and proving once and for all that treatment does work when accompanied by accountability.

The magic of Drug Court can also been seen in the ways in which the model has been adapted to serve other populations. In 1995 the first DWI Court opened in New Mexico along with the first Juvenile Drug Court in California.

Two years later America had its first Tribal Drug Court and Mental Health Court. The first Family Drug Court was born in Nevada. And most recently, in 2008, The Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court was created for veterans struggling here on the homefront with addiction, trauma and mental health issues.

After 25 years of transforming lives, reducing crime, reuniting families and saving tax-dollars, Drug Courts are now the foundation of criminal justice reform sweeping the nation. A new report from Urban Institute recently found that 17 States are expected to lower prisoner populations and save billions through innovative justice reforms including significant Drug Court expansion.

For example, in 2007, Texas faced a massive projected growth in prison population. Instead, state legislators invested more than $241 million in Drug Courts and other strategies to reduce recidivism. As a result, instead of spending an estimated $2 billion in new prison spending, Texas closed several prisons, experienced a 39 percent reduction in parole revocations, and drove the statewide crime rate down to levels not seen since the 1960s.

Texas is not alone. Governors across the country are investing in Drug Courts in order to reduce exorbitant prison spending and aid citizens in dire need of treatment. As a result, Drug Courts are now recognized as a key reason that 40 years of escalating prison populations have reversed course and are declining.
Incredibly, Drug Court is one of the only programs on Capitol Hill that has bipartisan support. Just a few weeks ago Drug Courts received a record appropriation of $95.9 Million at a time when federal funding increases are near impossible.

Drug Courts are a miracle that will continue to save lives for the next twenty five years, and then twenty five years after that. Well past our lives and the lives of the next generation. This is precisely why we must pause and collectively celebrate our progress, and gather our resolve for the next twenty-five years of saving lives, reuniting families, and transforming American criminal justice.