For this assignment, I decided to incorporate my past experiences into something useful. My mother was the chief of police in my town, she has since retired, but the long lasting impressions which I pulled from what I saw growing up remained in my mind. I believe that non-violent drug offenders should not be put into maximum-security prisons, or even prisons for that matter. I used the words, “non-violent” because once violence is involved in crime; it is hard to solely blame the crime on drugs. I am talking about rehab centers and places to restore humans back into functioning members of society. Before the offender’s fate is determined, they must first go through the PTC system. I recently asked my mom about sitting in on a PTC hearing, and after attending, this is what I thought! Upon observing the Philadelphia Treatment Courts in late October, I kept an special eye out to see if the rehabilitation of drug offenders in the justice system was present, rather than just capital punishment. The court was located on 11th and Filbert Street however; the main purpose is to try to rehabilitate drug offenders instead of putting them in jail after an arrest. The drug courts are fairly new when compared to the criminal justice system. This normally means that the studies that have been done on them are also contemporary, and still need to be ironed out. One of the main goals of the court is to heavily monitor as well as channel the offenders to make sure they rehabilitate their drug/alcohol addiction. The court does this so that they can rebuild their lives, and can be fused back in with society in order to contribute in a positive way.
The Philadelphia Treatment court was placed into the court system in 1997. The original model was based off the first drug treatment court that was established in Dade county Florida in 1989. The drug courts were instituted for “narcotics offenders” who instead of sending them to prison were given the opportunity to join a counseling and rehabilitation program, which was closely monitored by the courts. However, if the agreed upon conditions were not met they would then have to revert to a prison or a jail sentence (Goode, 2012, p419). Since its origins in Dade County drug courts have been established all over the country and are still growing. Drug court programs cost significantly less to operate than sending the offender to prison. It costs $8 billion annually to hold drug offenders in prison, while the drug courts, even with its intensive monitoring and counseling of the offenders costs only $1,800 to $4,400 a year (Cole, 1999, p31.). Since 1993 the percentage of federal inmates serving sentences for drug offenses are approximately 60 percent, more than doubled since 1980 (Auerhahn, 2000, 281). If drug courts can save the taxpayers money and rehabilitate the offenders it is a much better option for every party involved. The offenders are able to rehabilitate themselves and return to living in the social norms of society. This also puts them at a higher percentage to get a job, go back to school, and possibly create a career out of their newly rejuvenated life. Then the courts and the criminal justice system are, for once, doing what they were put in place to do, restore “criminals” and turn them back into citizens.
Upon my arrival to the court, I immediately noticed the disparity of races among the defendants. Almost all of the twenty-eight defendants were African American males, while there were only two Caucasian and six Hispanic defendants. The ages of the defendants were between 20-30 years old with a few older and younger than that age range. While sitting and waiting for the judge to make his appearance, the mood in the room was very overwrought and uneasy. The silence in the room was almost piercing, except for the treatment, caseworkers and the various lawyers and public defenders scrambling around to get their