Drug courts, heavily promoted as a novel way to holistically resolve issues concerning addiction, have generated a fair amount of data on their clients (findings on recidivism rates are still sorely lacking despite the acknowledged need to examine this angle). They have also generated a substantial amount of critique from defense attorneys. But yesterday’s This American Life broadcast shed light on something quite different: A drug court in Georgia that seems to operate under very different basic premises than the general problem-solving paradigm. Here’s the abstract of Part One:
Ira reports from Glynn County Georgia on Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams and how she runs the drug courts in Glynn, Camden and Wayne counties. We hear the story of Lindsey Dills, who forges two checks on her parents’ checking account when she’s 17, one for $40 and one for $60, and ends up in drug court for five and a half years, including 14 months behind bars, and then she serves another five years after that—six months of it in Arrendale State Prison, the other four and a half on probation. The average drug court program in the U.S. lasts 15 months. But one main way that Judge Williams’ drug court is different from most is how punitive it is. Such long jail sentences are contrary to the philosophy of drug court, as well as the guidelines of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. For violating drug court rules, Lindsey not only does jail terms of 51 days, 90 days and 104 days, Judge Williams sends her on what she calls an “indefinite sentence,” where she did not specify when Lindsey would get out.
The full broadcast will be available here on Sunday.
Props to Susan Dennehy for the link.