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Association of Prosecuting Attorneys

Michigan Drug Courts Win-Win for Users, Taxpayers

May 10, 2012
Judge William Schma retired from the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court bench in 2006. Six years later, he still runs into people whose lives turned around thanks to his drug court. Repeatedly.  "I just got a call from someone graduating from the humanities program at Western Michigan University who wants me to come to graduation," said Schma, a pioneer in Michigan's drug treatment court system. "I bumped into somebody making my sandwich at Subway who said, 'Your program saved my life.'" Such stories are common among the judges presiding in the 100 drug courts of various sorts and sizes across Michigan. They handled more than 8,300 cases from October 2009 through September 2011, according to the State Court Administrator's Office. They operate in 47 of Michigan's 83 counties, which means both that they are common - and that there is room for expansion.  A wealth of research suggests there's plenty of reason to expand, too. Drug offenders and drunken drivers who go through drug courts are far more likely to beat their addictions, get their lives in order and stop committing crimes than those who don't.  It costs perhaps $4,500 for a drug treatment program. Real money, to be sure. But far less than the $30,000 or so annual expense for prison, or $20,000 for jail. And nearly 70 percent of the felons who end up in Michigan prisons have a history of drug and/or  alcohol problems.