The first statewide Drug Court in the U.S. began in Delaware Superior Court in 1997. The Drug Court Program, now in its 17th year, started in New Castle County and was one of the first dozen Drug Courts in the nation. Defendants
began to enter the program in April 1994.
Now in part because of the success of states like Delaware there are over 2,500 Drug Courts nationwide.
As of March 2011, the Superior Court Diversion Drug Court in New Castle County processed over 6,000 drug cases, in Kent County over 1497, and in Sussex County over 1,500. The program expedites cases and saves taxpayers’ money while getting participants into treatment sooner and with greater success than other methods of case management. And, incidentally, we have changed and saved a significant number of lives.
The 17-year compliance rate for the Drug Court is over 64%. That figure compares favorably with rates in similar programs nationwide even though this Court is particularly stringent about the conditions of participation and the consequences of non-compliance, as Delaware's counsel for both sides can attest. This compliance rate is double that of “voluntary” substance abuse programs.
A few years ago, the University of Delaware conducted an ambitious two-year follow-up study to determine recidivism rates and the incidence of subsequent arrests of program participants. The study's results show a significant decrease in recidivism for drug court graduates. The rate was approximately 19% as compared with 49% for those not in the program.
The Diversion Drug Court Program is a multi-agency cooperative effort. The Court acknowledges the support and hard work of the offices of the Attorney General, the Public Defender, the private bar, the counseling agencies which service the diversion program, and, of course, our own Superior Court staff.
Our Diversion Drug Court Tracks
Track I targets defendants who are arrested
while on Superior Court probation and who are charged with one or more
drug offenses that do not carry a minimum mandatory sentence.
hearing is held within 14 to 21 days of arrest to resolve both the violation
and the new charge. If both are resolved by a plea agreement, a punishment
and treatment program is established. Each case is actively monitored
by the Track I judge. If no plea agreement is reached, the violation is
heard and a trial is scheduled within 90 days of arrest.
Track I has been successful in expediting
the resolution of charges related to offenses committed by individuals
on probation. Many of these offenders are quickly referred to residential
substance abuse treatment followed by outpatient treatment.
A recent study
showed that those who successfully completed Track I treatment were less
likely to be re-arrested within 18 months following release. Statistics
also show that this program has been successful in reducing the number
of drug-addicted babies born to previously addicted mothers who have completed
Track II targets defendants who are
arrested for drug offenses who have no or minimal prior felony convictions
and who are charged with offenses other than trafficking or delivery (which
carry minimum mandatory sentences).
Diversion-eligible defendants waive
their right to a jury trial and agree to a stipulated fact trial if they
do not comply with diversion conditions.
Defendants appear at monthly
hearings before the Track II judge, who monitors the defendants' progress
in the drug treatment program.
Upon successful completion of the program
requirements, the case against the defendant is dismissed.