A Tale of Two Courts
Barbara Geisman, an aide to Saint Louis Mayor Francis Slay has questioned whether the city needs a drug court and recommended cutting funding for the court by $325,000. Now, I’m all for cutting the budget of pretty much any government agency, but if this just shifts people that would be going to drug court into the more punitive side of our criminal justice system, it will likely wind up costing Missouri taxpayers more in the long run.
Geisman’s view has been challenged by William Ray Price Jr., Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, who last week called for increased drug court funding.
“We know drug courts work. We have more than 8,500 graduates,” said Price, who is seeking $2 million more a year for drug courts. “We know the tremendous savings that result from drug courts in Missouri.”
As for studies about drug courts, Price had this to say in his speech to the state House and Senate:
At one fourth to one fifth the cost of incarceration, more than one half of drug court participants graduate, and recidivism is only in the 10 percent range. The last five meta studies on drug courts, from all across the United States, have shown that drug courts reduce crime from 8 to 26 percent.
As the editorial board of the Post-Dispatch noted, this is the low-hanging fruit in our justice system. I will reiterate that the cheapest of all alternatives here is to not to criminalize the behavior of nonviolent drug offenders at all, but since that is not currently on the table, drug courts are an improvement over prison — even if you think people who consume politically incorrect substances should be forced by the state to change their behavior.