The San Francisco Chronicle profiles the city's drug court, which for the past 17 years has offered motivated addicts an alternative to prison. Recently, 21 people had charges dismissed as they "graduated" from drug court in a courtroom ceremony. The program is offered to nonviolent drug and alcohol addicts facing criminal charges and is one of the centerpieces of San Francisco's rehabilitative approach to criminal justice. Some experts say it is a model program other California counties should consider embracing now that Gov. Jerry Brown's realignment program is in full swing.
Studies show the diversion program helps reduce recidivism by up to 87 percent for graduates, saving taxpayers more than $14,000 per participant. Superior Court Judge Angela Bradstreet, who oversees the court, said such programs are imperative in light of state data, recently reported by The Chronicle and California Watch, that indicate that a majority of third-strikers serving 25-years-to-life sentences are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Most of the drug court's recent graduates were cocaine and methamphetamine addicts, with alcohol being the other primary substance of choice. The average participants was 45 years old and had been using since they were 20. Now, they're drug free and have housing, and 52 percent are employed. The others are receiving legal income, such as disability benefits.