National Treatment Court Month

by | May 30, 2024

“Drug courts are a place where people can and do change,” said District Judge Kenneth Stoner in a recent op-ed. “In fact, when people are engaged with compassion and accountability, that change is not just possible, it’s probable and predictable.” Judge Stoner oversees the Oklahoma County Treatment Court (OCTC), which observed National Treatment Court Month in May.  

What are treatment courts?

Treatment court allows participants with nonviolent felony offenses to have charges dismissed by successfully completing a highly structured, court supervised treatment program. The program includes 5 phases and can last between 18-36 months. Participants work with a deeply involved treatment court team that forms strong relationships, provides support and encouragement, and accountability. With the support of staff, they attend treatment for substance use, including drug testing and group meetings. They also maintain stable employment and housing.  

The average drug court participant has been to prison once or twice and is usually facing new drug-related charges. 4 out of 5 participants successfully graduate and have their charges dismissed through guidance from OCTC and a compliance with their evidence-based program. With just over 1,580 graduates since 2016, Oklahoma County Treatment Courts excel in effectiveness — boasting a graduation rate 20% higher than the rest of the country. 

Impact on crime 

While treatment courts provide plenty of “feel good” success stories, they also contribute to public safety. Most property crimes are typically paired with substance use or addiction. A report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 72% of people in jail and 68% of people in prison for a property offense met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse. Property crime rates in Oklahoma County are decreasing, in part because of our successful treatment court program. 

Emphasizing the importance of data-driven, evidence-based alternatives to incarceration, a meta-analysis of treatment courts indicates that a well-functioning treatment court in a community lowers the crime rate by 10-15%. Some communities have even seen it lower as much as 35-40%. 

“As Oklahoma looks to modernize our criminal justice system, we have to understand we will not move the needle on lowering incarceration rates unless we can move the needle on addiction and mental health,” said Judge Stoner. 

Treatment courts are more effective than incarceration, probation, and treatment alone. The more that we invest into treatment over incarceration, the safer our communities become.