Federal judges around the country are teaming up with prosecutors to create special treatment programs for drug-addicted defendants who would otherwise face significant prison time, an effort intended to sidestep drug laws widely seen as inflexible and overly punitive. The Justice Department has tentatively embraced the new approach, allowing United States attorneys to reduce or even dismiss charges in some drug cases. The effort follows decades of success for “drug courts” at the state level, which legal experts have long cited as a less expensive and more effective alternative to prison for dealing with many low-level repeat offenders. But it is striking that the model is spreading at the federal level, where judges have increasingly pushed back against rules that restrict their ability to make their own determination of appropriate sentences. So far, federal judges have instituted programs in California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. About 400 defendants have been involved nationwide. In Federal District Court in Brooklyn on Thursday, Judge John Gleeson issued an opinion praising the new approach as a way to address swelling prison costs and disproportionate sentences for drug trafficking. “Presentence programs like ours and those in other districts mean that a growing number of courts are no longer reflexively sentencing federal defendants who do not belong in prison to the costly prison terms recommended by the sentencing guidelines,” Judge Gleeson wrote. The opinion came a year after Judge Gleeson, with the federal agency known as Pretrial Services, started a program that made achieving sobriety an incentive for drug-addicted defendants to avoid prison. The program had its first graduate this year: Emily Leitch, a Brooklyn woman with a long history of substance abuse who was arrested entering the country at Kennedy International Airport with over 13 kilograms of cocaine, about 30 pounds, in her luggage. “I want to thank the federal government for giving me a chance,” Ms. Leitch said. “I always wanted to stand up as a sober person.”Doug Berman has uploaded the Gleeson opinion here, and it's worth a read.
Monday, March 04, 2013
Why doesn't the SDFLA have a drug court?
Seems like this District would benefit from such a program, which are up and running in numerous districts around the country. The front page of the NY Times profiles the new federal drug court and Judge Gleeson, who is yet again out in front of cutting edge criminal practice: