How Effective Is Court-Ordered Alcohol Treatment?

In Wyoming, as in almost every jurisdiction, if you’re charged with DUI, the Court requires you to get an alcohol evaluation and do recommended treatment. Sometimes the Court orders an alcohol evaluation as a condition of release. Sometimes the Court waits until sentencing to require the alcohol evaluation and treatment.

In Wyoming, the alcohol evaluation must be done by a Wyoming certified treatment provider (read about where to get a Wyoming evaluation here). However, in general, the judge will allow you to take the classes at any state-certified provider. So if you’re not from Wyoming, you can do the classes in your home state.

Because the Court orders you to complete treatment, the counselor has enormous power and responsibility. If they find that you are tardy, failing to participate, or failing a drug test, then the counselor can report you to the Court. Penalties include extending probation, revoking probation, and jail time.

Despite the fact that treatment counselors have so much power and responsibility, there is relatively little attention paid to how well the treatment programs work in comparison to the rest of the criminal justice system. There are records for unsolved crimes, the success rate of the prosecutor, and the average time it takes for a case to go through the Court system, but there are not equally good records of the success rate of Court-ordered treatment programs.

The Atlantic Monthly recently examined the performance of Alcoholics Anonymous in particular and Court-ordered alcohol treatment programs in general, and found plenty to be skeptical of. The entire article is worth reading in full.

These quotes capture the tone of the article:

“The vast majority of people in need of addiction treatment do not receive anything that approximates evidence-based care.”

Treatment counselors have a hard job. In my experience (I was assigned to a treatment court), most counselors are dedicated and hardworking. We are lucky to have several good ones here locally. Yet it is precisely because they are so important and have such responsibility, that they should be held to a high standard. If anyone has any thoughts on the subject, I’d be happy to discuss the issue. You can contact me here.

Photo: Flickr

Alex FreeburgHow Effective Is Court-Ordered Alcohol Treatment?