June 21, 2017
In the report Neither Justice nor Treatment, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) states that drug courts in the United States struggle to meet medical and human rights standards. According to the researchers, drug courts – designed to reduce incarceration and provide necessary treatment – routinely fail to provide adequate, medically-sound treatment for substance use disorders.
The report entitled Neither Justice nor Treatment: Drug Courts in the United States (published in June 2017) is based on interviews with health-care professionals, social workers, judges, lawyers, drug court staff, and drug court participants, focusing on the U.S. states of Florida, New Hampshire, and New York.
Dr. Homer Venters, director of programs: “Unfortunately, drug courts often prioritize punishment over treatment. For instance, instead of treating relapses as a natural part of the recovery process, some drug courts punish participants for relapsing, compromising their successful recovery. What’s more, some drug courts require total abstinence from substance use, including prescribed medications, and refuse to allow medication-assisted treatment, despite the fact that treatment for opioid use disorder often requires long-term medication. Such approaches are counterproductive and unsupported by evidence.”
Among its recommendations, PHR urges federal and local officials to enact clearer standards for drug courts, defund drug courts that disallow medication-assisted treatment, decriminalize the possession of drugs for personal use, ensure government health insurance plans cover comprehensive treatment, and put in place supportive services to make treatment plans more effective.
Read the report Neither Justice nor Treatment (PDF)