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Miami Courts Favor Treatment Over Prison for Drug Possession Cases


March 1993

Dade County, Florida, in which Miami is located, is experiencing striking results with an innovative program that substitutes treatment for jail for first-time drug possession offenders (Ronald Smothers, "Miami Tries Treatment, Not Jail, in Drug Cases," New York Times, 2/19/93, A10; Michael Isikoff and William Booth, "Miami 'Drug Court' Demonstrates Reno's Unorthodox Approach," Washington Post, 2/20/93, A1).

The program has flourished with the strong support of Dade County former State Attorney Janet Reno. The three-year-old Diversion and Treatment Program is run by Judge Stanley Goldstein of Dade County Court in conjunction with the county's Department of Human Resources. The program is too demanding for some, with only 40 percent of those enrolled completing treatment.

But of that 40 percent, only 10 percent have come back into the court system facing drug or other charges since the program's inception in 1989. The program costs Dade County $1.2 million per year, or about $500 to $700 per person per year, about the same cost as jailing an offender for nine days. Career criminals and violent offenders are not eligible.