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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LYNCH. Madam Chair, I rise to offer an amendment to H.R. 5326, making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill.

My amendment would increase by $4 million the amount appropriated for fiscal year 2013 for the Office of Justice Drug Courts Program. The $4 million added to the Drug Courts Program will be offset by decreasing the amount by $4 million in the funding for periodic censuses and related programs.

To say that there is a drug addiction problem in the United States is an understatement. We're dealing with an epidemic that is in every city and town in this country and that reaches across every demographic. Addiction does not discriminate as it shatters lives, breaks up families, and costs hundreds of billions of dollars annually. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, estimates of the total overall costs related to substance abuse in the United States, including productivity and health- and crime-related costs, exceed $600 billion annually.

Drug courts are specialized court dockets designed to handle cases involving drug and/or alcohol dependent offenders who are commonly charged with offenses such as the possession of a controlled substance or other nonviolent offenses determined to have been caused or influenced by their addictions. These cases are handled through a comprehensive program of supervision, drug testing, treatment services, and immediate sanctions and incentives that are designed to reduce the recidivism rates of these particular offenders. People who don't comply with the requirements of drug courts go to jail. They go to jail quickly and for various periods of time. It's a ``get tough'' policy. Particular offenders have their recidivism rates reduced by helping them overcome their substance abuse problems, which are the primary and predicate causes of their criminal activities.

Drug courts coordinate the efforts of judiciary, prosecution, defense bar, probation, law enforcement, treatment, mental health, social services, and child protection services to break the cycle of substance abuse, addiction, and crime. If we can break that cycle, we will all benefit.

Drug courts work. Drug courts save money. They reduce crime and they restore families. According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, the drug court approach reduces crime by as much as 45 percent more than other sentencing options. In fact, nationally, 75 percent of drug courts graduates remain arrest-free for at least 2 years after leaving the program, and reductions in crime by those offenders is long term.

In addition to reducing crime, drug courts save money, and that is a theme that has become very popular around here lately. As reported by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, for every dollar nationwide invested in drug courts, taxpayers save as much as $27. This substantial savings comes from avoiding criminal costs, prison costs, reduced victimization, and health care utilization--all areas in which vast sums of money are spent.

Most importantly, drug courts help restore and preserve families. According to statistics, family reunification rates for drug offenders are 50 percent higher for drug court participants. As people struggle through addiction, they lose a sense of themselves and become isolated from everyone they've known. Reuniting with their families can be the first step in returning to normalcy and to becoming again productive members of their communities.

The underlying bill provides $41 million in drug court funding, which is $6 million over the FY 2012 level. For that, I would like to thank Chairman Frank Wolf and Ranking Member Chaka Fattah.

However, drug courts have been historically underfunded since 2001. So this $4 million increase would bring funding for the National Drug Court Program in line with its historical average of $45 million since 2001. I appreciate the good work of the census, and I believe that this modest offset can be accounted for in the coming years, but the work of the drug courts meets an immediate and critical need.


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