Recovery Drug Courts in Tennessee Reducing Crime and Saving Lives

Monday, May 04, 2015 | 01:06pm

Improving public safety by sentencing more drug-addicted offenders to supervised treatment

NASHVILLE – Since 2012 the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has helped fund Recovery Drug Courts that offer intensive judicial supervision, substance treatment services, sanctions, and incentives to address the needs of drug-addicted non-violent offenders.

During the month of May, designated as “National Drug Court Month” Tennessee is joining with courts across the country that are demonstrating how a combination of accountability and compassion is the foundation for handling individuals addicted to drugs in the criminal justice system.

“Recovery Drug Courts are one of the most effective strategies for diverting people from incarceration and reducing recidivism among people with substance abuse addictions who are nonviolent offenders,” said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “By treating those who are struggling with substance abuse, we can save taxpayer money, promote public safety and reduce drug abuse in communities.”

Just a few of the benefits of Recovery Drug Court:

  • Reducing correctional costs
  • Protecting community safety
  • Improving public welfare

Across the U.S. more than 3,000 Recovery Drug Courts offer communities a judicially-supervised court docket. In Drug Courts, seriously drug-addicted individuals remain in treatment for long periods of time while under close supervision.

“On average nationally, 75% of individuals who complete Recovery Drug Court are not re-arrested,” said Commissioner Varney. “Courts can also save up to $13,000 for every individual they serve and return as much as $27 for every $1 invested. These specialized courts are a proven budget solution and must be expanded.”

To ensure accountability:

  • Defendants 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 for not living up to their obligations

Research continues to show that Recovery Drug Courts work better than jail or prison, better than probation, and better than treatment alone.

CLICK for an in-depth look at Tennessee’s Morgan County Residential Recovery Court