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Drug treatment programs could save Florida's government money

When a person is arrested for drug possession, he or she may wonder what will happen next. Florida currently puts many non-violent drug users into state prisons or county jails, but there is a push throughout the state to make greater use of drug courts.

Florida already has 105 drug courts, according to the Sun Sentinel. However, these courts are reportedly not used as much as they could be. If a person charged with a drug crime goes through a drug court, he or she may be ordered to go through a treatment program. Many of these treatment programs last over a year.

Cost is a primary motivator for the state to make use of drug courts more than prison and jail sentences. Putting a person through a court-ordered drug treatment program is much cheaper than putting a person up in prison for an extended period of time.

According to the Sun Sentinel, having a nonviolent person charged with a drug crime go through a court-ordered drug treatment program in the community costs approximately $20 each day. In comparison, the state may spend $53 each day to keep a person in prison.

At this point, it is unclear how the state will proceed, as groups have varying opinions on what is best for the state. For example, Florida's governor reportedly vetoed a bill "that would have saved the state money by diverting nonviolent offenders out of state prisons and into community-based substance-abuse treatment and education programs." However, others are strongly in favor of making use of drug courts and drug treatment programs.

For a person who is charged with drug possession or drug use, seeking strong representation may be very beneficial. Even if the state does not transition to using drug courts more and still puts offenders in prison, nonviolent individuals may be eligible for alternative punishments to a prison sentence.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Innovative drug courts need help," Jan. 7, 2013

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