Drug Courts Front and Center as Criminal Justice Reform Sweeps Nation


On February 6, 2013 South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard signed into law sweeping legislation aimed at cutting prison costs by diverting more people to Drug Court and other interventions. At the bill signing Governor Daugaard praised the state’s Drug Courts and the future of criminal justice in South Dakota. "We are going to change the administration of criminal justice in this state for the good of all its citizens," he said.

South Dakota is not alone in pushing significant criminal justice reform. Across the country Governors are calling for more Drug Courts, improved access to mental health treatment, and  support for alternatives to incarceration.
Governors across the country have been giving their annual State of the State addresses to their state legislature, mapping out their policy goals and vision for the future. For the full text of all State of the State adresses, click here.

Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal, 1/17/13

 “This year we will continue our work by bringing legislation designed to produce better results with juvenile offenders and divert them from the adult system…Similar to last year, we would emphasize community-based, non-confinement correctional methods for low-risk offenders as an alternative to regional and state youth centers. To get started, I will be requesting $5 million in the FY 2014 budget to create an incentive funding program that encourages communities to create and utilize these community-based options.  These options range from substance abuse treatment to family counseling and provide judges with viable, alternative sentencing options.”

Hawaii, Governor Neil Abercrombie, 1/22/13

“And we also formed a Veterans Treatment Court, partnering with our State Judiciary and Veteran Affairs counterparts to help tie in critical treatment, counseling, and follow-up, while helping promote low recidivism rates for repeat offenders. In the future we will partner with the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation to explore an additional veterans’ home on Oahu, and develop multi-service Veterans Centers in Kahului, Maui; Lihue, Kauai; and in Kona, Hawaii.”

Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear, 2/6/13

“The use of our nationally recognized prescription monitoring program, KASPER, has increased nearly seven-fold as providers work to ensure that painkillers are being used legally and effectively. My friends, the image of an innocent baby born into this world suffering drug withdrawal is almost too horrible to visualize. Let it inspire us to act now.”

Maryland, Governor Martin O’Malley, 1/30/13

“I ask that you help improve mental health treatment and information sharing, and to expand crisis intervention.”

North Carolina, Governor Pat Mcrory, 2/18/13

“For the sake of our families, please send me legislation, which will re-establish our drug treatment courts and also increase penalties for those who set up meth labs in our communities.”

Oklahoma, Governor Mary Fallin, 2/4/13

“As a state, it is time to offer the resources that prevent drug abuse from occurring in the first place. We must work…to make sure life-changing treatments are available to those who are struggling with addiction issues. To that end, I have allocated new funding to help Commissioner Terri white as she works to strengthen prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment initiatives.”

Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett, 2/5/13

“It costs $34,000 a year to keep a man or woman in prison. That is $34,000 that doesn’t reach our schools, pave our roads, or care for our poor. While prisons are necessary, they are not necessarily the only answer. Our Justice Reinvestment Initiative gets eligible offenders out of the system and works to reintroduce them as productive citizens. It also will save us $139 million. This money is being moved to the ‘front end’ of the justice system-victim services, local policing, county-based offender treatment, improved probation services…We need to be tough on crime and smarter about preventing it.”

South Dakota, Governor Dennis Daugaard, 1/8/13

“One of the recommendations is about alternative courts. South Dakota has fewer drug courts than any other state in the country, but the drug courts we do have produce impressive results. Fewer than 20 percent of the graduates of South Dakota drug courts and DUI courts over the last five years have committed new felonies. That is a remarkable success rate, because these offenders are repeat offenders…the budget I outlined for you last month contains funding for expansions of two existing alternative courts and adds two more.”

“This set of proposals…is not about being soft on crime. It’s about being smart on crime. If implemented, the recommendations of the final report are estimated to save our state $200 million in averted construction and operating costs over the next decade.”

Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam, 1/28/13

“Tennesseans average 17 prescriptions a year vs. the national average of nearly 12. And emergency room visits for prescription drug overdoses now equal the number of visits for illegal and over-the-counter drugs in Tennessee. We’re also recommending placing more non-violent drug addicts into drug court treatment programs. This will better serve those offenders by focusing specifically on their addiction. It also saves the state money because the Department of Correction pays $35 a day for the care of an offender in drug court and $65 per day for that same person to be in prison.”

West Virginia, Governor Earl Tomblin, 2/13/13

“We’ve kept out promise to make eliminating substance abuse a top priority-and now-laws are on the books to shutdown “pill mills” and stop “doctor shopping.” We listened to our communities and invested in drug treatment programs…”
“It’s no secret that West Virginia’s correctional system is overextended. Statistics now show the number of people in our prisons is increasing at three times the national average… What we learned was simple: substance abuse is a huge part of prison overcrowding, and the high re-offending rate intensifies the problem…We must act now to address these challenges. We must work to increase public safety and reduce habitual offenders.”