Miami-Dade Public Defender Bennett H. Brummer receives national award for his work with Drug Court

Miami, FL — July 20 1999 — Miami-Dade Public Defender Bennett H. Brummer has received a national award in recognition of his support for the country’s first drug court established in Miami a decade ago.

The innovative program was so successful that from this single courtroom, the Miami program became a model for other drug courts across the United States and abroad. Today, more than 600 drug courts are in operation or in the planning stage.

Mr. Brummer received the Founders Award "for his vision, creativity and hard work in helping to establish the first drug court program in the United States" at the annual conference of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals recently held on Miami Beach. More than 3,000 people attended the event. The association was created five years ago to assist the planning, implementation and operation of drug courts. The Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office has championed drug court since its inception.

The Founder’s Award was also presented to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, former Judges Gerald Wetherington, Stanley Goldstein and Herbert Klein as well as Timothy J. Murray and University of Miami President Edward T. Foote.

Mr. Brummer, with the other award recipients, created the treatment program in response to the crack cocaine epidemic that was plaguing our community. Judge Goldstein was the only judge to preside over drug court until he retired last December.

Responded Mr. Brummer: "I am honored to receive this award because Drug Court represents an effective response to the problem of drug addiction. As we create more drug courts, we save more lives."

Court policy calls for nonviolent offenders arrested for possessing or purchasing drugs to be diverted into the treatment program to receive intensive court supervision, frequent drug testing and counseling and vocational training for at least one year.

If the judge feels faltering clients are capable of, but not fully committed to recovery, he can send them to jail for up to two weeks.

According to a three-year national study, 80% of people behind bars were involved with alcohol or other drugs at the time of the crimes. The report, released in January 1998 by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York, concludes that criminal activity because of drugs and alcohol is the overwhelming reason the nation’s prison population has risen nearly 239% since 1980, when 501,886 people were imprisoned.

In drug court, chemical addiction is viewed as a disease, and recovering addicts are given every opportunity to succeed with their treatment. This view is substantiated by another study, also released in 1998 by a group of prominent physicians and public health leaders from the Clinton, Bush and Reagan administrations that commissioned the research from half a dozen universities. This study found that medical treatment for drug addiction works as well as treating diabetes or other chronic diseases, dramatically reduces crime and is a lot cheaper than jail

Most of the public believes jail is best for drug addicts, according to national surveys published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year. However, that view is changing. Conservative voters in Arizona have overwhelmingly approved a new law mandating treatment instead of prison for drug offenders. And some other states, such as New York, Louisiana and Washington, are considering changing their laws to allow judges more discretion to send addicts to treatment instead of jail, said a June 10, 1999, article in the New York Times.

Mr. Brummer points out that drug court has saved Miami-Dade County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. It costs $26,000 a year to jail an offender, while drug court treatment costs only $2,300 a year for each client.

Of the 14,000 clients referred to Miami-Dade drug court, approximately 5,000 graduated from the program. Recent studies show that more than 90% of them are arrest free for at least one year after graduation, and approximately 75% remain arrest-free for five years.

  

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Law Offices of the Public Defender
Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida

 

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