Drug Court restores lives, saves families

The Twelfth Judicial Circuit's drug court programs celebrate National Drug Court month with a retrospective, proclamation

A courtroom is not a place where you expect to find scenes of celebration and tears of joy. Unless, of course, it’s drug court.

This May, drug courts throughout Florida will join more than 4,000 such programs nationwide in celebrating National Drug Court Month. This year alone, more than 150,000 individuals nationwide who entered the criminal justice system due to addiction will receive lifesaving treatment and the chance to repair their lives, reconnect with their families, and find long-term recovery.

National Drug Court Month is a celebration of the lives restored by drug court. In 1997, the Twelfth Judicial Circuit’s drug court opened its doors with a simple premise: Rather than continue to allow individuals with long histories of addiction and crime to cycle through the justice system at great expense to the public, use the leverage of the court to keep them engaged in treatment long enough to be successful.

Drug court, with its 83% success rate, has significantly improved substance abuse treatment outcomes, and substantially reduced drug abuse and drug-related crime, and has done so with less expense than any other criminal justice strategy.

Today, drug courts and other such problem-solving courts have proven that a combination of accountability and compassion saves lives while also preserving valuable resources and reducing exorbitant criminal justice costs.

A young woman, Brooke, entered Sarasota drug court in 2017. She had lost hope and wanted to give up, but she didn’t. Brooke stayed in drug court, worked hard and successfully completed the program. The drug court manager recently received an invitation to Brooke’s college graduation.

“I feel capable today,” Brooke said in her video testimonial after her graduation from drug court. She said she credits drug court with giving her the tools to “cope with life on life’s terms.“

Brooke’s story is just one of thousands of individual stories that demonstrate why problem-solving courts are so critical in the effort to address addiction and related crime.

The scientific research agrees: Numerous studies have found that problem-solving courts reduce crime and drug use and save money. The programs also improve education, employment, housing, financial stability, and family reunification, which reduces foster care placements.

Problem-solving courts represent a compassionate approach to the ravages of addiction and our community reaps the economic and societal benefits of this proven budget solution to all in need.

The pandemic tried to knock the drug court programs down, but they persevered. Judges are holding court by video, the labs are open, and testing and accountability continues.

On May 11, 2021, the Board of County Commissioners designated May 2021 as Drug Court Month in Manatee County.


Florida has 95 drug courts in operations: 56 adult drug courts; 20 juvenile drug courts; 13 dependency drug courts; 4 DUI courts; 1 Marchman Act drug court; and 1 domestic violence drug court.

  • Lower recidivism
  • Restore communities
  • Reduce crime and make people safer
  • Save money
  • Reunite families
  • Address the opioid epidemic
  • Make better use of resources
  • Help folks get back to work
  • Send people back to school
  • Improve public health
  • Ensure public safety

Many judges in the Twelfth Circuit have presided over drug court in its 24-year history. Their ranks include:

  • Durand Adams (retired)
  • Lon Arend
  • Frederick DeFuria (retired)
  • Janette Dunnigan (retired)
  • Deno Economou (retired)
  • Robert McDonald (retired)
  • Andrew Owens (retired)
  • Charles Roberts (currently presides over drug court)
  • Charles Williams