Martin Sheen Visits Capitol Hill to Tell Congress Drug Courts are a Proven Budget Solution

Washington, DC (March 31, 2011) – Martin Sheen was on Capitol Hill today to urge Members of Congress to continue their widespread support of Drug Courts. Mr. Sheen was among a diverse panel of experts to speak at a briefing on the latest Drug Court research and the steps needed to ensure their sustained success in cutting crime, saving money and serving veterans in need of drug and mental health treatment. The event was sponsored by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and the U.S. House of Representatives Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus. 

The standing room-only briefing was attended by several Members of Congress including caucus Co-Cairs John Sullivan (R-OK) and Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Vice Co-Chair Mary Bono Mack (R-CA). Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) also attended.

“We're all here today with one purpose, and that is to ensure that congress holds the line on the $88 million dollars that they are currently investing in Drug Courts. To that end we met with Members of both House and Senate yesterday, Democrats and Republicans alike,” said Mr. Sheen. “I was amazed and heartened to see the incredible bipartisan support Drug Courts have achieved. I am grateful to all Members of Congress who have stood up and supported Drug Courts during these very difficult economic times. Naturally I am grateful for their concern and compassion for all those in the grip of alcohol and drug abuse. I am equally grateful for their wise stewardship as well, for they clearly understand the extraordinary bargain Drug Courts are for taxpayers, saving up to $27 for every $1 invested. Obviously Drug Courts are the very best deal Congress can make to reduce crime and the social consequences related to drug addiction and I am extremely confident that they will all rise to the occasion and return the appropriation necessary to continue the Drug Court dream, a dream that helps lift up this nation and all of its people.”

“Drug Courts are a proven effective tool in reducing crime, combating drug abuse and saving taxpayer money,” said Congressman John Sullivan.  “I believe that sentencing alternatives should be considered and promoted, and today’s briefing is highlighting the importance of Drug Courts in achieving that goal.”

“I have been working on substance abuse issues for many years, and I believe there is a common misperception about drug addiction:  too many people mistakenly believe that addicts choose to be criminals and should therefore be treated the same as other criminals – by being put through our criminal justice system and locked-up,” said Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack. “In reality, drug addiction is truly a sickness and unless it is treated as such, the negative behaviors of addicts, including committing crimes, will only be repeated again and again. Drug courts are an effective way to fight addiction with 75 percent of graduates remaining arrest-free. That success rate speaks volumes about the importance of the program.”

“Drug Courts are transforming the face of criminal justice across the nation by creating systematic response to substance abuse and crime as an alternative to incarceration,” said former Congressman Jim Ramstad (R-MN).  “Today, this nation’s 2,500 Drug Courts provide an appropriate and effective public health response for seriously addicted individuals who are involved in the criminal justice system as a direct result of their substance abuse. Drug Courts reunite broken families, serve our nation’s veterans when substance abuse and mental illness lead them astray, intervene with juveniles on the brink of a debilitating life of addiction and crime, and stop repeat drunk drivers. This program must remain funded in order to ensure continued cost savings resulting from their unparalleled success.”

“More research has been published on the effects of Drug Courts than virtually all other criminal justice programs combined,” said NADCP Chief of Science, Law and Policy Doug Marlowe, Ph.D., J.D.  “Scientists have put Drug Courts under the microscope and concluded that they are more effective than jails or prison, probation or treatment alone. These facts are no longer up for debate. Drug Courts reduce crime by up to 45% and have been found to save up to $13,000 for every individual they serve. And we now know that 75% of those who complete Drug Court are never arrested again. In addition to reductions in crime and substance abuse, A 2009 study funded by the National Institute of Justice confirmed that Drug Courts also reduce family conflicts associated with domestic violence and child abuse.”

These numbers were driven home by the testimony of Kathlene, a graduate of the Tulsa Drug Court in Oklahoma who described her thirty-year addiction to drugs and alcohol and numerous arrests before her life was saved by Drug Court. “Drug Court gave me the tools I needed to stay clean and sober and the resources, education and assistance I needed in other areas of my life,” she said. “I graduated the Tulsa County Drug Court in 2007 and today, I have an amazing life that I would never trade for anything I experienced while using.” Following her graduation from Drug Court, Kathlene regained custody of her daughter and founded a non-profit agency operating a state certified DUI school.  “I have many beautiful gifts and relationships in my life today, but the greatest gift I have is freedom from addiction. I am living proof that Drug Courts work.”

Kathlene was joined by Tulsa County, Oklahoma District Court Judge Rebecca Nightingale Rebecca Nightingale, who oversees the cities’ Drug Court system which includes an Adult Drug Court, Veterans Treatment Court, DWI Court and Mental Health Court.

About Drug Courts
Drug Courts are judicially-supervised court dockets that reduce correctional costs, protect community safety, and improve public welfare. In Drug Courts, nonviolent, drug-addicted individuals remain in treatment for long periods of time while under close supervision. Drug Court participants must meet their obligations to themselves, their families, and society. To ensure accountability, they are regularly and randomly tested for drug use, required to appear frequently in court for the judge to review their progress, rewarded for doing well, and sanctioned and rewarded for doing well. 

Since 1994, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) has worked tirelessly at the national, state and local level to create and enhance Drug Courts, which use a combination of accountability and treatment to compel and support drug-using offenders to change their lives.

The award-winning NADCP is the premier national membership, training, and advocacy organization for the Drug Court model representing over 27,000 multi-disciplinary, justice professionals and community leaders. NADCP hosts the largest annual training conference on drugs and crime in the world and provides 130 training and technical assistance events each year through its professional service branches, the National Drug Court Institute, the National Center for DWI Courts and Justice for Vets: the National Clearinghouse for Veterans Treatment Court. NADCP publishes numerous scholastic and practitioner publications critical to the growth and fidelity of the Drug Court model and works tirelessly in the media, on Capitol Hill, and in state legislatures to improve the response of the American justice system to substance-abusing and mentally ill offenders through policy, legislation, and appropriations.

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Former Congressman Jim Ramstad (R-MN) makes the case for Drug Court funding


Martin Sheen meets with Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus Co-Chair Congressman John Sullivan (R-OK) prior to the briefing.


Caucus Co-Chair Tim Ryan (D-OH) speaks about the importance of Drug Courts.


Caucus Co-Vice Chair Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) tells the audience that Drug Court statistics "speak volumes about the importance of the program."


Tulsa County, Oklahoma District Court Judge Rebecca Nightingale oversees Tulsa's Drug Court system. Here she introduces Kathlene, a proud Drug Court graduate.


Kathlene tells the crowd that Drug Court saved her life, as her Congressman John Sullivan looks on.



Download NADCP's 2011 Capitol Hill Brief