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Drug courts are judicially supervised court dockets that handle the cases of non-violent substance-abusing offenders under the adult, juvenile, family and tribal justice systems. Drug courts are problem-solving courts that operate under a specialized model in which the judiciary, prosecution, defense bar, probation, law enforcement, mental health, social service, and treatment communities work together to help non-violent offenders find restoration in recovery and become productive citizens. In the USA, there are currently over 2,459 drug courts representing all fifty states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands and 111 tribal drug court programs. In the UK, drug courts are currently being tested in various places. In Australia, drug courts operate in various jurisdictions, although their formation, process and procedures differ. The main aim of the Australian courts is to divert illicit drug users from incarceration into treatment programs for their addiction.
Drug courts have been established in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia. People appearing in Australian drug courts often fall outside the parameters for other pre-court diversion programs.
Drug treatment courts (DTCs) are a recent phenomenon in the Canadian criminal justice system. The first Canadian DTC commenced in Toronto in 1998. The Federal Government currently supports six DTCs in Canada including: Edmonton (December 2005), Winnipeg (January 2006), Ottawa (March 2006), Regina (October 2006), Toronto (1998), and Vancouver (2001). Calgary and Durham have also recently initiated DTCs.
The first drug court in the U.S. took shape in Miami-Dade County, Florida in 1989 as a response to the growing crack cocaine problem plaguing the city. Chief Judge Gerald Wetherington, Judge Herbert Klein, then State Attorney Janet Reno and Public Defender Bennett Brummer designed the court for nonviolent offenders to receive treatment. This model of court system quickly became a popular method for dealing with an ever-increasing number of drug offenders. Between 1984 and 1999, the number of defendants charged with a drug offense in the Federal courts increased 3% annually, from 11,854 to 29,306. By 1999, there were 472 drug courts in the nation and by 2005 that number had increased to 1262 with another 575 drug courts in the planning stages; currently all 50 states have working drug courts. There are currently[when?] about 120,000 people treated annually in drug courts, though an estimated 1.5 million eligible people are currently before the courts. As of December 31, 2011 there are more than 2,600 drug courts operating throughout the United States.