Florida started the national drug court movement in 1989 by creating the first drug court in the United States in Miami-Dade County. Other types of problem-solving courts followed in the 1990s to assist individuals with specific needs and problems that were not or could not be adequately addressed in traditional courts. Problem-solving courts use the drug court model to help address specific issues that will benefit the individual, victim, and society. The specific issues may include, but are not limited to, drug abuse, mental illness, veterans' issues, and domestic violence. There are over 2,700 drug courts operating in the U.S. and territories. For more information on drug courts, please visit the website for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals at www.nadcp.org.
In the years since Florida pioneered the drug court concept, numerous studies have confirmed that drug courts significantly reduce crime, provide better treatment outcomes, and produce better cost benefits than other criminal justice strategies.
The Florida Legislature has a long history of proactively addressing drug-related crime. In 1993, the Legislature provided for pretrial substance abuse education and treatment intervention programs for eligible nonviolent felony offenders.1 These pretrial intervention programs are the precursors to the many forms of drug courts that exist today in Florida. In 2001, the Legislature stated its intent that drug courts be implemented “in each judicial circuit in an effort to reduce crime and recidivism, abuse and neglect cases, and family dysfunction by breaking the cycle of addiction which is the most predominant cause of cases entering the justice system. The Legislature recognizes that the integration of judicial supervision, treatment, accountability, and sanctions greatly increases the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment.”2
The drug court program team within the Office of the State Courts Administrator's, Office of Court Improvement was created to foster the development and expansion of the successful drug court concept throughout Florida. By identifying funding sources, developing training materials, providing technical assistance, creating an information exchange, and working with the legislature, the drug court team helped make the Legislatures intent to have drug courts in every judicial circuit a reality. As of May 2016, Florida has 94 drug courts operating in the felony, misdemeanor, juvenile delinquency, and family dependency divisions of the court.
In 2009, the Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA) released a study on adult post-adjudicatory drug courts in Florida which showed that individuals who successfully completed post-adjudicatory drug courts were 80% less likely to go to prison than the comparison group. The study also reported to the Legislature that drug courts could save Florida more money by targeting nonviolent, prison-bound offenders. The Florida Legislature appropriated Edward J. Byrne Justice Assistance Grant stimulus funds to expand adult post-adjudicatory drug courts.
In January 2014, OPPAGA released an outcome and cost study of the program entitled: Expansion Drug Courts Can Produce Positive Outcomes Through Prison Diversion and Reduced Recidivism. The full report is available at http://www.oppaga.state.fl.us/MonitorDocs/Reports/pdf/1402rpt.pdf
Among the key findings from the OPPAGA Report are:
- The estimated cost savings through diversion if 100% of offenders were prison-bound is $7.6 million;
- Diverting prison-bound offenders to drug courts may also produce cost savings through reduced recidivism;
- The estimated annual savings through reduced recidivism is about $500,000;
- The average completion rate statewide is 53%. Drug court completion rates varied, affected by the availability and use of residential treatment and judicial interaction;
- When compared to similar offenders, successful drug court completers had fewer felony convictions (9% drug court completers vs. 19% comparison group);
- When compared to similar offenders, successful drug court completers had fewer prison sentences (2% drug court completers vs. 9% comparison group).
Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards
Statewide Adult Drug Court Evaluation
National Drug Court Month
May is National Drug Court Month. Each year National Drug Court Month shines a light on the collective impact of drug courts throughout the nation. The month's activities showcase drug courts, and, further, bring attention to countless lives saved, families reunited, and communities made safer through the program.
You may view the Supreme Court of Florida proclamation that was signed by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and the State of Florida resolution signed by Governor Rick Scott and the Cabinet of the State of Florida, recognizing May 2016 as National Drug Court Month.
For more information about National Drug Court Month, please visit the National Association of Drug Court Professional’s 2016 National Drug Court Month Resource Center.
Drug Court Data
The Office of the State Courts Administrator collects and compiles data annually from the local drug courts that were operational at some point during the year. Below are various reports that show the number of admissions, graduates, and other measures.
Critical Performance Indicators and Data Elements for Florida’s Drug Courts
Florida Drug Courts' Quick Facts
- As of May 2016, Florida has 94 drug courts in operation, including 45 adult felony, 7 adult misdemeanor, 23 juvenile, 15 family dependency, and 4 DUI courts.
- There were over 7,300 admissions into Florida’s drug courts in 2015.
- In 2015, there were 205 children reunited with their parents in Florida due to dependency drug courts.
- In 2015, there were 112 drug-free babies born to female participants while in drug court.
2 Section 397.334, Florida Statutes (2001).