FAIRMONT - A recent statewide study shows that drug court programs are working at rehabilitating non-violent drug offenders.
The Minnesota Statewide Adult Drug Court Evaluation is a 2 1/2-year study that compares 535 participants to 644 non-drug court participants with similar key characteristics. It looked at 16 different programs covering 23 Minnesota counties, including the Faribault, Martin and Jackson County program. The study was conducted by Minnesota's judicial branch.
"Since the program is voluntary, this is as close as a scientific study we can get," said Miranda Rosa, the new coordinator for the local program.
The three main goals of drug court listed by Rosa are: reducing recidivism, improving public safety and improving the lives of participants.
The study shows that drug court participants have a significantly lower rate of recidivism than non-participants. After entering a drug court program, only about a quarter of participants had been charged with a new offense, compared to 41 percent of non-participants.
The study also revealed that drug court participants spent less time incarcerated than non-participants, meaning $3,189 less was spent on a drug court participant for jail costs.
"We saw the unemployment rate for participants drop from 62 percent when they entered drug court to 37 percent at discharge," Rosa said. "And the rates for the FMJ drug court were even better. Statewide, there is a graduation rate of 54 percent, and our graduation rate is 72 percent. The average number of days of sobriety for graduates is 569 days at graduation."
Along with saving counties money and increasing public safety, drug court helps participants become valuable members of society.
"We have one drug court graduate who graduated from college and is starting a new business," Rosa said. "We're seeing success in our family courts too. We have a family that is preparing to buy a house for the first time, and so far we haven't needed to open any new child protection investigations for family drug court graduates."
Other highlights from the study include:
o About 23 percent of graduates statewide raised their highest education attainment during their time in the program.
o Almost 75 percent of graduates not compliant with their obligation to pay child support at the start of the program were compliant upon completion.
o Taking into account investment costs of the programs and the value of the outcomes that were produced, the average net cost savings from the drug court programs ranged from $5,000 to $13,000 per family. This was primarily due to decreased use of child welfare resources, and decreased use of the criminal justice resources.
"The study is going to be ongoing for three and a half years," Rosa said. "It's just very exciting because it proves what we've known all along and that's drug court does work."