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Missouri drug court bill heads to governor’s desk

It passed through the Missouri Senate recently with unanimous agreement. State legislators now want to see Gov. Mike Parson affix his signature to a new would-be law that seeks to expand Missouri’s already successful drug courts program. A media article spotlighting the seminal legislation states that the state’s chief executive “is expected to sign the bill any day now.”

Legions of criminal law reformers across the state will roundly endorse that development, given drug court proponents’ already enthusiastic embrace of a proven prison-alternative sentencing outcome for individuals with demonstrated drug problems.

Hard time behind bars does not cure addiction, they note. The long-term default result of incarcerating drug addicts in the general prison population has proven to be a flat failure. Critics spanning a broad spectrum cite both its illogic and an innate cruelty that seems more focused on pure punishment than on urgently needed treatment.

A bottom-line reality is that most drug offenders eventually reassimilate into the general community. Drug court advocates stress that they can do so either hardened and unimproved by a prison experience or with increased prospects for success following targeted treatment for addiction problems.

“If we send them to prison, it costs more money and they come back and … haven’t been treated for their substance use dependence,” says Missouri Associate Circuit Judge and drug court overseer Alan Blankenship.

The hope is that an expanded drug court program will far more effectively tackle addiction issues and spell a marked improvement rate regarding the percentage of offenders who commit new crimes and are rearrested. Prison terms are notorious for breeding recidivism among released inmates.

The same is not true for drug court participants. Reportedly, fewer than 20% of the graduates from one Missouri drug court were rearrested within five years of program completion.

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