Drug courts -- programs that seek to reduce drug use through mandated treatment and close judicial oversight -- sound like a good alternative to incarceration. In theory they are thought to save money and increase access to treatment but in practice they cherry-pick eligible participants and allow judges to preside over treatment decisions. Kerwin Kaye, Associate Professor of Sociology, American Studies, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University, recently published a book entitled "Enforcing Freedom: Drug Courts, Therapeutic Communities, and the Intimacies of the State." He sat down with Deputy Director of DPA’s Department of Research and Academic Engagement Dr. Sheila P. Vakharia -- whose background in social work makes her no stranger to drug courts -- for a fascinating conversation that dove deep into his ethnographic research and the many issues with the drug court model. They discussed how drug court practices often discriminate against and penalize Black and poor users while insulating those who are white and more class privileged. Kaye’s insights are particularly timely, as we see increasing calls for decriminalization and alternatives to incarceration.
Kerwin Kaye’s book is available through Columbia University Press.
To read DPA’s 2011 report on drug courts, visit https://www.drugpolicy.org/drugcourts.