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Practical Help for Drug Addicts

Within the past decade, a pretty good idea has taken hold in many states. It’s an idea that has as its heart the concept of helping people get past their problems rather than just punishing them for having them.

It’s called Drug Court. There are about 1500 of them in the United States now, with more being added each year as one community after another sees advantages and good results. It’s not easy, but for many, it’s a last chance. On Oahu, those who participate get access to intensive substance abuse treatment programs and other services that will help them to succeed in the community.

At first, the Drug Court only accepted non-violent criminals. But the path has widened now. The purpose is to take those who have been arrested for drug crimes and give them a choice: prison or the program.

The program helps them get off drugs and helps them to find a job and stick with it. It helps them to develop self-respect because they are doing something worthwhile and they achieve part of that by paying off their court fees, fines and restitution as well. Everyone respects a person who works hard for his money, and as they move to that status, they often find that they are reunited with family members who formerly didn’t quite know how to relate to them and their problems.

Steven Alm, a Drug Court judge, said, "We could send everybody to prison, but it costs about $50,000 a year in Hawaii. Do we really want to send a 25-year-old to Halawa prison for two or three years at $50,000 a year? When they come out, are they going to be better or are they going to be worse?"

Participants have to go to counseling and drug testing and appear before Judge Alm once a week. Since 1995 there have been 1032 participants in Drug Court and 666 of them have graduated successfully. That’s a better success rate than any other program in the United States.

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