Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell says he is fulfilling his promise to voters to be tough on property crimes and chronic offenders and that he views drug court as more appropriate for defendants without long criminal records. This is the opposite of what drug court supporters say it does best, which is to stop addicted, nonviolent, chronic offenders from committing more crimes.

Zachary Hamilton

In drug court, a defendant agrees to undergo a yearlong course of intensive treatment in a “non-adversarial” court process, involving regular appearances before a judge. It’s not jail, but neither is it “incarceration lite,” said Zachary Hamilton, an assistant professor of criminology at Washington State University.

“Drug court is really, really intensive,” he said. “It’s not a walk in the park.”

Hamilton completed a study of Spokane County’s drug court in December. It compared drug court defendants with historical averages. It found that 25 percent of the drug court group “graduated” from the program, and those graduates were 90 percent less likely than typical defendants to be charged with another drug crime and 85 percent less likely to be charged with another property crime.

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