For more than a decade the drug court system has worked towards changing lives of individuals facing substance abuse and also restoring families in the community. A national program adopted by Monroe County put in place to assist individuals all across the country plays a role in changing the judicial system. With an estimated 26,000 justice professionals, the organization is making imprints all over the country and is far removed from past scrutiny.
West Huddleston, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, says more than 30 years ago the headlines stated there was nothing that assisted substance abusers from returning to the system. “Addicts needed to be locked up or placed in jail, that no treatment worked. Today, there are 2,339 drug courts in the country serving 120,000 drug addicted citizens.”
Though change is not easy, Huddleston believes it’s necessary to look to the future and change the equation in a system not known for change – the Justice system, by using the power of the judges’ robe to ensure accountability.
Huddleston says it’s easy to have good intentions in terms of change, but it’s hard to actually implement change. “What you’ve done here in Monroe County is changed a system or changed the way the justice system not only looks at a citizen coming before the court with some severe problems, but you’ve changed how the justice center addresses those problems.”
The ultimate goal Huddleston believes is to have a drug court system in reach of every citizen in the United States. He says this will assist in furthering educational and employment opportunities and within the next 50 years make the drug court system part of the principles for any court structure.