Why the Criminal Justice System Doesn't Help

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August 1, 2013 - By Evan Goldstein

I want to share with you a moving story about the downfalls of treating problematic drug use through the criminal justice system. Elaine Pawlowski’s son, Michael, entered a drug court in New York several years ago because of an arrest.

He had mental health and substance abuse issues that remained ineffectively treated within the court, yet was remanded to jail due to drug relapse. Michael relapsed shortly before his death, but was afraid to get help because it could be used against him because of his drug court status. As a result, he died from an overdose on July 4, 2012.

As documented in recent reports by the Drug Policy Alliance, Justice Policy Institute, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, drug courts are an ineffective and inappropriate response to drug use. Many - all the way up to the Obama administration - consider the continued proliferation of drug courts to be a viable solution to the problem of mass arrests and incarceration of people who use drugs.

Yet the research clearly shows that drug courts do not reduce incarceration, improve public safety, or save money when compared to the wholly punitive model they seek to replace.

Read Elaine’s heart-wrenching and thought-provoking story here.

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