Drug Court is an Important Piece of the Recovery Model

It’s always helpful to humanize the legal system, as it Matthew Schmonsees—Coordinator of the 1st Judicial District Court of Pennsylvania—was an affable and informed representative of Philly’s “Drug Court.”

The approach of Philly’s Drug Court is unique, yet effective; as they employ a year-long diversionary program set on providing a series of recovery resources for first-time offenders claiming nearly an 80 percent graduation rate and a 91% rate of record expungement.

Janet Reno was instrumental in opening up Drug Court in Miami in the late 1980s, while the Philly incarnation emerged in the late 90s. Since 1997, the court has helped nearly 2,300 people, according to Schmonsees.

The courts are overflowing with drug cases, in many cases focused on people suffering from substance abuse disorders. The Philly drug treatment program often sees 200 entrants per year, while those who relapse are provided with some grace periods to re-enter the program. Schmonsees evoked genuine empathy and understanding that this population needs support to successful reintegrate into society, versus starting the recidivism-driven prison cycle.

“For every $1 invested, up to $27 is saved,” Schmonsees said in referring to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals on the economic impact of diversionary programming versus that of incarceration. Even when things make this much sense, it’s a wonder why this level of support isn’t fostered in every market.

About the author

Jim McCormick

For the past decade, Jim McCormick has worked as an analyst covering the NFL and NBA for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. From 2009 to 2010, he served as a regular panelist for The Washington Post’s online NFL platform, The League. In addition to written content for The League, Jim conceived and produced the interview podcast series, “Behind the Helmet.” From 2011-2012, Jim was the lead high school football editor for ESPN.com. Jim also served as an editor and co-publisher of the nationally distributed BLITZ Magazine from 2006 to 2010 in what was a broad learning experience as a media entrepreneur. Contact Jim at tua60748@temple.edu.

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