“Wisconsin drug courts grow, but racial disparities persist,” an excellent article by Taylor Chase of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, can help inform the most recent efforts to bring about criminal justice reform.
The good news: drug courts work and save money. The article cites a study by Randall Brown, Ph.D., at UW-Madison, who found that offenders who participated in drug treatment courts were 50 percent less likely to commit new crimes.
A study by the UW Population Health Institute found that in seven alternative treatment programs funded by the state, 2,061 offenders over more than four years avoided more than 135,000 days of incarceration. That study offered a cost-benefit analysis showing that the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion Benefits program resulted in financial benefits of nearly $1 for every $1 invested in the program by saving costs to the criminal justice system.
The bad news: black offenders are less likely to benefit from the opportunities offered by drug courts than white offenders. According to the article, in 2012, about one-third of those arrested for drug crimes in Dane County were black, but they made up only 10 percent of those participating in the county’s drug program that year. In May of 2014, 84 percent of defendants in Dane County’s drug court were white.
Chase also offers speculation by experts about why the disparities exist and a brief history of the establishment of drug treatment courts in Wisconsin.