pillsSPRINGFIELD–Drug courts, first introduced to Illinois in 2001, allow non-violent drug offenders to attend highly structured and closely monitored drug treatment programs in exchange for having their sentences reduced or dropped.

The benefits of these courts are well documented.  A study by the Attorney General showed that offenders sent to drug court are between 20 and 40 percent less likely to become repeat offenders than those sent to a traditional court. The Office of National Drug Control Policy also estimates that a drug court program can save up to $20,000 per participant.

However, under current state law, drug offenders can only be sent to drug court once. State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) passed legislation today with a vote of 54-00 to give these non-violent drug offenders another chance.

“Drug addiction is a disease, and as such, we should treat it like one. These are people who are caught up in a life they don’t wish to live in, but can’t escape after one try. We owe it to them and the taxpayers to utilize this cheaper, more effective option,” said Stadelman.

Stadelman’s proposal places no limit on the number of times a defendant can be assigned to drug court as long as they admit their addiction to drugs and have not committed a violent offense in the last ten years.

The legislation will now go to the Illinois House of Representatives.