The Cognitive Dissonance of Drug Courts


The Washington/Madison County Drug Treatment and Diversion Court in Arkansas recently received a $925,000 federal grant for its drug court program, to be doled out over three years. At a press conference announcing the grant, Drug Court Judge Chadd Mason said this:

"The grant targets the defendants that are placed in our program, thereby requiring their compliance with the justice system, compensation to victims, paying for treatment costs, paying their way, so to speak. That's an important part of what we do is encouraging and requiring that accountability."

"This grant will allow us to further our efforts in providing resources and effective tools for these target defendants, so that they can make changes in their lives that can address the issues that … caused them to engage in criminality in the first place."

Targets. Defendants. Criminality. Those aren't the words Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske uses when he tours the country talking about the importance of drug courts. Rather, he says that "[D]rug addiction is not a moral failing on the part of the individual. It's a chronic disease of the brain that can be treated." Kerlikowske has also said that the goal of the federal push for drug courts is to "lift the stigma surrounding those who suffer from addiction."

So, does it matter that the guy in Washington making the case for drug courts has a totally different opinion of drug offenders than the people who actually run drug courts?