Would you rather be in drug court or go to jail for a few
Brooklyn participants believed that, while drug court might be tough,
jail was not worthwhile:
- In the beginning I did [believe that Id rather go to jail]. Cause
I didnt really want to change. I acted like, you know, I really
would have rather done my time.
- Uh-uh. I would never do the 10 years. No way.
- There were times I did stay in here, and things were tough, and I really
felt like serving my time. Just do the 1 and be done.
- Before this, I got sanctioned, I said to myself I should had done the
time she offered me in the beginning . . . cause right now I could
have been home by now. I could deal with the jail. But the TC is mentally
you gotta deal with yourself. In jail you dont have to do that.
When asked if they would rather have gone to jail than attend drug court,
most Las Vegas focus group participants answered with a resounding no.
One participant mentioned that being in jail is easier than going through
the drug court. Another said that if he went to jail . . . [hed]
be out by now. In contrast, most participants felt strongly that
drug court was much better than going to jail, and gave the impression
that, even for those who had been incarcerated multiple times in the past,
avoiding jail was a high priority:
- No way. Some people are like that because they dont have a family
lifestyle. Theyre used to living in the street. They dont
have nobody to look forward to, like me I got kids, I got children, you
know. I got somebody to live for, like, a daughter. Shes 16 years
old and a little boy thats 6 years old.
- Some people will want to continue to do their drugs so they rather
go to jail, do their time, get back out to do their drugs.
- The felony would stick to my record, you know, whereas Im doing
it like this, you know. This is the only thing on my record, period. No traffic ticket or anything,
just this. You know, if I get finished with this then, you know, the felony
is off my record. . . . If you dont want anything else in your life,
it cool, but its a lot you cannot do with a felony. Theres
a lot you cant do.
- Ive done a year in prison up in Carson City and my family couldnt
come to visit me. . . .
Down here in this program, I can go to the movies, I can go bowling,
I can do other things. Its much better even though its inconvenient.
Its a good inconvenience.
When asked if it is easier to be in the drug court or incarcerated, Las
Vegas participants argued that drug court is far from easy:
- No. No it isnt [easier in drug court]. I dont want to go
to jail. Its just as easier to go to prison and do nothing for a
year but lay around and I mean, you know, whats the use, then thats
the lifestyle youve become accustomed to. . . . They will not hire
felonies. Thats all there is to it.
Miami drug court participants found nothing positive or desirable about
going to jail:
- Jail doesnt help you get clean. This program helps you get clean
and there is no way around it. You have to get clean one way or the other
or youre not gonna get on the program. And once you go to these
groups, you dont ever want to get high again cause they give
you the strength and courage not to ever want to do that, to move on to
a better life. Jail doesnt do anything for you. The program helps
you get clean and stay clean.
- Jail is not sanitary either. Have you ever been to the Dade County
jail? When I was there, ladies sleeping on the floor, coughing in your
face, its nasty, very nasty, and the food they serve isnt
too good either.
- Its easier for whoever dont want to get clean, if you just
want to do the jail time and get out and get high, its easier.
- You go, then you come out and do the same thing. I dont want
to be locked up, no.
- I think its a good program for the purpose of staying out of
jail, for getting something off your record. . . . But, from a users
point of view, I dont think jail should be associated with this.
Its more of a sickness, its not a criminal kind of thing.
But this is an option to keep you out of jail but I dont think its
the ultimate answer.
Miami focus group participants acknowledged, nevertheless, that the threat
of incarceration was an important factor in motivating drug court participants
to continue in the program and comply with its conditions:
- Yes. [General consensus.]
- Jail is his hammer when people are out of compliance.
- Jail motivates change.
- No, without jail, no. Like, try to do it again. If theres no
jail, no punishment, they dont listen, they just go through it.
. . .
- For me, it probably would work. This program saved my job. So I have
to come. Without this program I probably would have lost 20-some years
on the same job.
Some were more qualified in their responses about incarceration:
- If it wasnt for my job, I wouldnt care if I go to jail
and got rid of the whole thing.
- It depends on how long you gotta go to jail for.
The proposition that it would generally be easier and more desirable
just to go to jail and do the time than to go to drug court
was greeted with a nearly unanimous negative response among Portland drug
court participants. One participant stated that those who preferred to
go to jail were institutionalized.
- This is my fourth treatment program and its the only one thats
done anything and I think thats because I had a hammer over my head
- Yeah. Im scared. This is why Im telling you. This is one
of the main reasons Im staying away from drugs, is because I hate
jail and I dont want to go there. I like my freedom too much. I
hate everything about it. So jail means a lot to me when you got jail
hanging over your head.
- I feel jail. Nobody likes it, okay? But Im not afraid of it.
- When youre using, youre not afraid of jail, thats
a risk you take.
- When you get clean and sober, you get a little bit apprehensive about
going to jail.
- I have claustrophobia. I cant go to jail.
Back to Court Responses
Chance: Perspectives on Drug Courts