Source: (2009) Stanford Law and Policy. 20(2):463-500.

Since their first appearance in Miami in 1989, specialized drug treatment courts have grown phenomenally popular, with nearly 2,000 now in existence. Although their effectiveness is a matter of debate among academics, (2) their political appeal remains strong. This popularity stems in large part from the unpopularity of what is generally seen as the principal policy alternative, that is, a continued reliance on the traditional criminal justice responses to drug offenses--or, more colloquially, on the "war on drugs." Public support for the war flagged as it became clear that many drug offenders were unresponsive to threats of harsh sentences, (3) prison populations (and hence prison budgets) were escalating wildly, (4) and many poor minority communities were being devastated by the collateral damage. (5) Against this backdrop, it is easy to understand the appeal of a reform that promises to divert drug offenders from prison warehousing into court-supervised treatment: it would seem that drug courts could hardly help but be an improvement on a dismal status quo. (excerpt)