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Neither Justice nor Treatment: Drug Courts in the United States (2017)

Drug courts in the United States routinely fail to provide adequate, medically-sound treatment for substance use disorders, with treatment plans that are at times designed and facilitated by individuals with little to no medical training. In a report published today by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), researchers found that drug courts - designed to reduce incarceration and provide necessary treatment - struggle to meet medical and human rights standards.

“Our study shows that while drug courts promise treatment rather than punishment, they face serious challenges in living up to that promise,” said PHR’s Christine Mehta, one of the paper’s lead authors. “Drug courts regularly set participants up for failure. Few communities have adequate treatment facilities, insurance plans often won’t finance effective treatment programs, and the criminal justice objectives of drug courts often overrule the medical needs of the patient in ways that threaten the rights and health of participants.”