The Drug Court program was first implemented in Iowa in 1996 and since then it has been an astounding success. It has helped many convicts who have pleaded guilty to narcotics related crimes, including drug peddling. Instead of sending these offenders to prison, where they would get little chance for rehabilitation and would simply add to the already crippling correctional spending, the judge sentences such criminals to the program for 1-2 years.
Through this period, convicts are allowed to work but are kept under strict supervision, which is exactly what they need to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, 3 drug courts in the state are facing closure due to lack of funding. The Council Bluff’s Court which serves nine counties in southwest Iowa will be closed from October 1st. Two other drug courts which cover 14 counties from southeast Iowa along with Ottumwa and Burlington counties are also in peril.
The move has shocked many considering that not only judges, politicians and law enforcement agencies but also President Obama has accepted that such programs reduce the rate of recidivism among drug offenders, give them a second chance and save taxpayer money which would have otherwise been spent on imprisoning these offenders.
Tracing the root of the funding crisis
The drug court program is a part of the parole and probation services of the state, which are sponsored by the regional correctional agencies. A total of eight such agencies govern the correctional initiatives and spending in the state and the money is procured from the Legislature.
A recent 2.5% hike in salary of DOC employees was recently put into effect. However, the Legislature only provides a fraction of the money that would be needed to incur the increase in expenses owing to the salary hike. This led to a deficit of $381 million. So, the DOC was left with the tough decision of either closing the drug court or cutting staff, of which the former was chosen.
For now, everybody is hoping that during the 2016 session, legislators may consider setting aside additional funds, which would help to manage the cash crunch and then the drug court program can be brought back.