South Dakota currently has two specialty drug courts, and they have been produced a 90 percent success rate and hundreds of thousands in savings for taxpayers.
According to the Chief Justice of South Dakota’s Supreme Court, David Gilbertson, more specialty courts are needed to replicate those results statewide.
Drug courts, which provide treatment, supervision, and testing rather than jail time for substance abusers, have grown in popularity in the last decade, due largely to the significant cost savings they offer (they are less expensive than incarceration) and due to their high levels of success. That success is understandable: attacking the root of criminal behavior—substance abuse—is usually the key to preventing further criminal behavior.
Justice Gilbertson pointed to neighboring states, which have dozens of drug courts spread out across many counties, and urged South Dakotan lawmakers to create more drug courts in his annual state of the judiciary speech.
For their part, lawmakers recognize the success and are open to further expansion. The Republican Majority Leader in the House, David Lust, has mentioned not only the cost savings from drug courts, but also the family bonds that the courts strengthen.