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Drug charges may be diverted into the drug court program

Drug courts are a promising way to combat the prior insidious practice of incarcerating non-violent drug offenders who have an addiction problem. New York has long been a pioneer in the use of drug courts to eliminate or minimize drug charges filed against non-violent addicts. The program involves a rather aggressive intervention by treatment counselors, medical people, defense attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement agents and the courts.

If the participant is successful, the charge may be dismissed or reduced greatly. The reports from the field are that the drug courts have impressive success figures since starting up. Back in 2006, one man who became a participant in the program is now the front man for the musical group named Phish. Trey Anastasio was arrested by Washington County authorities for possession of drugs.

Anastasio spent 14 months in the program and graduated successfully. He recently came back to New York to tell the virtues of the program to a group of people who are ready to graduate from it. He credits the drug program with saving his life. Others around the country have extolled the benefits of this pretrial diversion that emphasizes rehabilitation for non-violent drug users who have gotten crunched up in the criminal justice system.

Instead of facing long prison sentences from drug charges as in the past, the trend nationwide and in New York is toward using the drug courts and other pretrial diversionary programs to help people recover, and just as important, to prevent them from being educated in the ways of crime by being incarcerated. The state has 89 drug courts in the criminal system and a few dozen others for family law and other court systems. This is a real program, one that is deeply committed, with results that are extremely hopeful for continued success going forward.

Source: jambands.com, "Trey Anastasio Speaks to New York State Drug Court Graduates", June 16, 2016

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