October 19, 2012 - 2:34 am
Twenty years after its inception, “drug court” was hailed as one of the most successful prison diversion programs the justice system has seen.
“No court program has had such a positive impact on the criminal justice system, the prison system and crime in general than Nevada’s drug courts,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Cherry during a ceremony at the Regional Justice Center marking the anniversary.
Judge Linda Bell, who runs the eighth judicial district’s drug court, said that with a “balance of sternness and compassion,” drug court presents “a real opportunity to make a difference in the community.”
After 20 years, the program is celebrating 5,200 successful graduates and the births of 600 drug-free babies, officials said.
Bell, who took control of the specialized court three months ago, said follow-up statistics show 70 percent of drug court graduates do not commit another crime.
Clark County has several different types of specialty courts in District Court, Justice Court and Municipal Court, including drug, DUI and mental health court.
The goal of these courts is to get nonviolent offenders out of the rotating doors of the Clark County Detention Center and provide guidance and treatment to prevent defendants from reoffending, while saving tax dollars.
Once a defendant successfully completes specialty court treatment, the original criminal case that landed them there is dismissed.
Court officials estimate that drug court has saved more than $40 million since it was founded by Judge Jack Lehman.