Drug addiction is defined as a disease by almost all medical professionals and medical associations, including the American Medical Association, but unfortunately in the eyes of the law, it’s treated as a crime instead of a public health crisis.
In Oklahoma, however, there is some relief through the courts if you have been convicted of certain drug charges. It’s called drug court, and here’s how it works for people who have been caught with heroin or other kinds of dope.
What is drug court in Oklahoma?
Adult drug court programs in Oklahoma give non-violent felony drug offenders the chance to choose a treatment program instead of jail time:
- The treatment program is “highly structured” with well-defined treatment goals.
- Abstinence from drugs is monitored through frequent alcohol and drug testing.
- The program starts with high incentives for succeeding in the program.
- Jailing participants who test positive for dope or alcohol isn’t the standard punishment in drug court. Usually, drug courts use less harsh penalties first before sending an offender to jail, unless the participant poses an immediate risk to public safety.
Does drug court work?
Oklahoma has seen much success with its drug court programs. According to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse services, drug court is available in 73 out of 77 counties in the state.
Here are some statistics about drug court provided by the state Department of Mental Health:
- It costs, on average, $19,000 a year to incarcerate someone in Oklahoma.
- The average cost the state incurs for drug court participants is $5,000 a year.
- Drug court graduates have much lower recidivism rates than non drug court offenders.
- Drug court graduates have a re-arrest rate of 23.5 percent, as compared to the 38.2 percent re-arrest rate for offenders who complete standard probation and the 54.3 percent re-arrest rate for those who are simply released from prison.
- Drug court’s success in Oklahoma has also led to the development of other diversionary programs, including juvenile drug courts, family courts and mental health courts.
How have changes in Oklahoma’s drug laws affected drug court?
Oklahoma has been steadily enacting criminal justice reform legislation over the past few years to decrease the state’s prison population. One of those reforms includes reclassifying drug possession crimes to misdemeanors instead of felonies in hopes that users don’t end up serving lengthy prison terms for drug possession.
But what Oklahoma lawmakers didn’t factor in is that drug court is only an option for felony drug charges. Under the new law, about a fourth of all people charged with drug felonies over the past few years would have misdemeanor charges instead. This makes them ineligible for Oklahoma drug court and has officials examining the program and how it can be restructured to help misdemeanor offenders.
Drug court is just one option when you are facing charges for heroin, marijuana or other drugs. You need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to work on your behalf. Contact Jacqui Ford’s office today for a consultation.