It’s not as fun as it sounds. In fact, it’s a sentencing alternative for first time street drug busts.
I have a client out in Bridgeview who was recently offered this opportunity. I say opportunity, because drug school is one of the saner alternatives offered in our criminal justice system.
Drug school is four classes, which if successfully attended and passed by the Defendant, the State will nolle prosequi (“do not pursue” in Latin) and drop the case. This alternative is frequently the best possible outcome for the Defendant. Since many drug cases are felonies even on simple possession, a first time “break” like this is a vital piece of the rehabilitation puzzle.
Drug school in Cook County is a similar system to the “drug courts” that have been established in many jurisdictions around the country. Where I attended college and law school, at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, it was a frequently used tool for first time offenders. Of course, a lot of those offenders were relatively well-off college students (mainly white, Wisconsin is the least diverse school in the Big Ten) who were being busted for pot, ecstasy, or other relatively not-hard drugs. Cook County offers drug school, which is more like a diversion program. In many jurisdictions, drug court is more like intensive probation where you are actually sentenced to a period of drug testing and classes, and upon completion, then the charges are dropped.
Here, you attend the classes before sentencing and if completed satisfactorily, the matter is then not prosecuted (with leave to re-instate later if you mess up again).
This all appears to be a part of the criminal justice system that is operating with the intent to rehabilitate (or at least, redirect) the criminal defendant. To that end, drug school is one of the few times that Cook County actually tries to help, rather than simply punish.
I have found that many of my clients are rarely offered it (of course, it’s limited to first time offenders and those with very small amounts of drugs anyway), and that it’s usually offered prior to a preliminary hearing.
I’m just interested to see what the numbers are for recidivists coming out of the program or even how many are in the program in a given year. I’d like to see the success rate (i.e. recidivism rates) of a program that makes you attend four classes telling you not to do drugs, and doesn’t even require drug screening. That sounds like high school health classes, not an effective drug deterrent program.
Still, it’s a great alternative for my clients, a good deal if you can get it. I just wonder about its efficacy compared to drug courts in other jurisdictions.
Read further at the Drug School Act online to see the legislative authorization. It notes that statistics should be tracked, I’ve just never seen them.