This month, you will find 5th grade students touring Judge Montero’s courtroom to learn about the criminal justice system and justice reforms, such as drug courts, which are changing the way the country responds to substance use and mental illness.
“Drug Court Awareness Month is a special time for us because it gives us a chance to recognize our successful graduates and program participants, while also educating young people about the dangers of using drugs,” said Judge Montero. This year, the Sixth Judicial District Court has teamed with the Nevada Department of Investigation to provide a drug awareness education program. Each Tuesday, classes are tour the court and learning that drug court programs can support people to make major changes to their life.
This May, drug courts throughout Nevada will join more than 3,000 such programs nationwide in celebrating National Drug Court Month. In 2018 alone, more than 150,000 individuals nationwide who entered the justice system due to addiction will receive life-saving treatment and the chance to repair their lives, reconnect with their families and find long-term recovery.
National Drug Court Month is not only a celebration of the lives restored by drug court, it also sends the powerful message that these programs must be expanded to reach more people in need. Nearly 30 years ago, the first drug court opened its doors with a simple premise: rather than continue to allow individuals with long histories of addiction and crime to cycle through the justice system at great expense to the public, use the leverage of the court to keep them engaged in treatment long enough to be successful. Today, drug courts and other treatment courts have proven that a combination of accountability and compassion can not only save lives, but save valuable resources and reduce exorbitant criminal justice costs.
Several years ago, a young woman entered our treatment court. After years of struggling with a substance use disorder, she resorted to stealing to support her addiction. She was arrested numerous times, but nothing changed. She was facing years in prison when she received the opportunity to participate in Judge Montero’s drug court. In drug court, she met regularly with a case manager and participated in rigorous treatment and counseling. With the help of the court team, including community-based treatment providers, she began to put the pieces of her life back together. While in the program, we helped her enroll in college and find part-time work. She completed the treatment court program and went on to reconnect with her family. Today, she has no criminal record holding her back. She is happy, healthy, employed and contributing to our community. In her own words, “it’s been two years since I got off that horrible life wrecking drug. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve become the mother my kids need and deserve. A daughter that a mom and dad can be proud of. A sister that wasn’t an embarrassment. I’ve grown so much in such a short period of time. I can truly and honestly say that I have finally found true happiness. Thank you to everyone that has been there for me and helped me when I felt like giving up.”
This is just one of the thousands of individual stories that demonstrate why treatment courts are so critical in the effort to address addiction and related crime. But if you are looking for research, treatment courts have that too. Numerous studies have found treatment courts reduce crime and drug use and save money. They also improve education, employment, housing, financial stability and family reunification, which reduces foster care placements. Treatment courts represent a compassionate approach to the ravages of addiction. This year’s National Drug Court Month celebration should signal that the time has come to reap the economic and societal benefits of expanding this proven budget solution to all in need.
Director of Court Services
6th Judicial District Court