JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — More than 12,000 criminal defendants have successfully completed special substance abuse treatment programs since they began in Missouri two decades ago, the state's top judge said Wednesday.
Missouri Chief Justice Richard Teitelman highlighted the treatment courts as part of his annual State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the House and Senate.
The state's first drug court began 20 years ago in Jackson County to divert nonviolent, substance-abuse offenders to judicially supervised treatment programs instead of prisons. The state now has treatment court divisions in all but two of its 45 judicial circuits, Teitelman said.
"Missouri has become a national leader in drug courts," Teitleman said.
The drug courts also have served as a model to start special treatment courts for drunken driving offenders and military veterans who are struggling with addictions and mental health issues.
According to a report released Wednesday by the judiciary, Missouri had 136 treatment court programs with 3,500 adult and juvenile participants in 2012. Diverting 3,000 of those adult offenders from prison saved about $50 million, the judicial report said.