Deputy White House Drug Policy Director Highlights Need to Divert Non-Violent Drug Offenders into Treatment instead of Prison
WASHINGTON – Today, Benjamin B. Tucker, Deputy Director of State, Local, and Tribal Affairs for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism on the Obama Administration’s work to reform the criminal justice system by diverting non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of prison by supporting specialized courts that reduce recidivism, save tax payer dollars, and improve public health and safety.
During his testimony, Deputy Director Tucker touted the success of drug court programs, which provide eligible drug-addicted offenders intensive treatment and other services required to achieve recovery from substance abuse. Drug courts keep individuals in treatment long enough for the services to be effective, while ensuring that the criminal justice system supervises them closely by reviewing their progress. Already, over 2,500 drug courts are in operation across America and are diverting approximately 120,000 Americans each year into substance abuse treatment programs. The success of drug courts has led to the development of other specialty courts like Veterans Treatment Courts, Family Treatment Courts, Juvenile Drug Courts, and Tribal Wellness Courts.
“Too often, drug addiction is the root of crime in our communities,” said Deputy Director Tucker. “At a time when all of us are facing budget shortfalls, governments should consider innovative and cost-effective programs like drug courts, which save lives, reduce recidivism, and break the cycle of drug use and crime.”
As part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to rebalance drug policies to emphasize prevention and treatment, last week ONDCP released the President’s 2011 National Drug Control Strategy. The Strategy restores balance to national drug control efforts by emphasizing drug education and expanding access to drug treatment. The Strategy also calls for a stop to the revolving door of the criminal and juvenile justice systems by addressing not only drug offenders’ criminal activities, but, equally important, their underlying substance abuse problems.
Overall drug use in the United States has dropped substantially over the past 30 years. In response to comprehensive efforts to address drug use at the local, state, Federal, and international levels, the rate of Americans using illicit drugs today is roughly half the rate it was in the late 70s. To build on this progress and support a public health approach to drug control outlined in the Strategy, the Obama Administration has committed over $10 billion drug education programs and support for expanding access to drug treatment for addicts.
A full copy of the 2011 National Drug Control Strategy is available here: