Do drug courts help people with their problems?
- I look at it as being a godsend because of the fact just the way the system works . . . and
this is just to help people get on the right track.
- They go out of their way to give you opportunities to do the right thingunderstand what
- I was drugged for 25 years and it held me up, cause I didnt think I had the right to live.
The treatment did me good. It put me back with my family, my kids, and everything. And
I have four kidstoday they love me.
- For me it was the greatest thing that ever happened. I might be dead. If I were still out
there, I would be dead.
- I believe it gives you an opportunity for a second chance.
Most Las Vegas participants believed that the drug court presented an opportunity, but success in
the program depended on whether they wanted to take advantage of that opportunity:
- I think it helps the majority of people that want to be there. . . .
- If people want help, theyll seek it, you know, through the program or within themselves,
and if they dont and if their addiction is that strong . . . theyre just keep going and . . .
- I think it only works if you work it, if you want it to, and I think a lot of people just use it
as a scapegoat. . . .
- Its all about help yourself. It helps the people that want to be helped and even though
the people that, you know, may not seem that they want to be helped at first.
- Yeah, I just got out, well after a year of being clean I thought that I, you know, could
handle weekends and stuff like thatthat was completely wrong . . . so now I know its
like I cant do it, period. But it helps those that want to be helped and sometime it makes
people that at first dont want to be helped realize that they need help.
- Its an opportunity for those that want help. Those that dont want help, theyre not ready
for it yet. You cant force it.
Some Las Vegas participants saw the program as something they were compelled to do, given
unpalatable alternatives such as incarceration. This seemed, in their minds, to represent a less
noble motivation than wanting to get off drugs:
- I pushed in the drug court because I didnt want to go to prison.
- I think their intentions are goodyou know, they want to help people, you know, to get
off the drugs or whatever the problem is, but I do basically think that a lot of people are
using it just to get out of trouble.
- No, I dont think it helps them cause I still get high and I know everybody gets high still
in this program, you know, but it makes you have to quit if you want to or not, otherwise
you are going to jail.
Similar views were expressed by Miami focus group participants:
- I think it helps a lot of people, whoever wants to be helped. . . . If they see you want to be
helped, they gonna work with you, they gonna deal with you, they gonna help you. But if
they dont see you want to get help or you spend time other than in court and you seem
like you dont want help, dont need help, he be quick to let you go. But if you want the
help, need the help, if you really into the program, he stick with you and work around
what you need. . . .
- Oh yeah. If it werent for the drug program, I would probably be out there right now
getting me something to get high on.
- I think, like, its not a program, its in your mind. Its a mind thing, ya know what Im
saying, you gotta want to start. So its like what you do out there, you cant just bring it in
here. . . . You can bring it here and talk about your problems. . . . Like she say, when she
graduated, she got back on or whatever. Like I say, its a mind thing, you gotta want to
- Drug court aint gonna do it. The individual gotta do it. Saying that you want to stop is
the beginning and the drug court just offers help on how to live a life without doing
- Absolutely it helps. It keeps you aware of the fact that if you dont get through this
program youre going to jail. And if youre really concerned about your problem it really
helps you with that too. All of it seems to keep your mind off the drug. It really helps me.
At least one participant was not so sure about the long-term effect for him/her:
- I say it doesnt help because I myself, I am a cocaine user, and smoke, yeah I can stay
clean through this program. But if I want to better myself, do I have that same
responsibility to pick up that same memory. It aint like now is going to lead to the future.
If it gonna lead me forever, I say yeah this program is great . . . yknow what I saying.
Throughout my lifetime. But I gonna start again.
Portland focus group participants also agreed that drug court presented a potentially beneficial
- The court is giving you the rules and parameters of behavior, while the facilitators are
helping you to live up to that standard.
- It gives me a reality check.
San Bernardino participants were fairly unanimous in their belief that the drug court helped.
- I do, it was great. If a person wants to clean up. . . . I think that every community should
- But you know they have a choice to make. They dont have to be there if they dont want
to. This is an option.
- People that want to be helped; peopleyou have to be willing, you have to want help. If
you dont you are just wasting space for somebody else who needs help, thats willing to
- The drug court is not easy, but it does help.
- You have to be willing to admit that you are an addict and take direction from people,
even if it doesnt make sense to you at the time. But the counselors obviously have more
experience in this situation. A lot of times it doesnt make sense to you what theyre
telling you to do. But it usually does help.
- Im making all these excuses, drug court lets you focus on where you at. . . . Those
excuses, even all this tragedy in my life, I still say Im gonna do it my way. Ive been shot
twice and stabbednone of that stopped me to focus on myself except stop my addictive
- When I first came here, its like I dont want to be here. . . . Its changed my mind.
Similarly, Seattle focus group participants regarded the drug court as helpful, as making a real
- Yeah, if you want it to. . . .
- If you want to help yourself, its gonna work. . . .
- Helped me a lotsaved my life.
- I never would have gone into treatment had it not been for drug court.
- Just the fact that they were willing to pay for my treatmentthat was a deciding factor for
me. They said they would pay for my treatment and I said thats greatI wanted to get in
treatment for 3 years before I got into the drug court program.
Back to The Treatment Experience
Chance: Perspectives on Drug Courts