3:30 pm
Dirksen Senate Office Building, 562

See the announcement on Constant Contact.

Developed in response to the deluge of drug arrests that began to overwhelm courts and fill jails and prisons in the 1980s, drug courts are now a 20-year-old criminal justice phenomenon. With many backers in the criminal justice system, drug courts have developed substantial political rapport, which risks providing them immunity from honest, critical analysis. Two new groundbreaking reports provide such critical analyses, examining drug courts’ effects on individuals, communities and the criminal justice system, recommending improvements in drug court practices and urging more health-centered approaches to drug use.

Portugal offers important lessons on health-centered policy responses to drug use. In 2001, Portugal abolished criminal penalties for personal possession of small amounts of illicit drugs and invested heavily in its public health infrastructure. Instead of being arrested, people found in possession of these substances are referred to regional “committees for the dissuasion of addiction,” which may order treatment and/or impose warnings or administrative sanctions. Ten years later, Portugal’s drug use rates remain among the lowest in Europe – and fatal overdose from opiates has been cut nearly in half, new HIV/AIDS infections in people who inject drugs have fallen by two-thirds, teen drug use has declined, and the number of people in treatment has significantly increased.


  • Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, Deputy State Director, Southern California, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) “Drug Courts Are Not the Answer: Toward a Health-Centered Approach to Drug Use” (2011)
  • Nastassia Walsh, Research Associate, Justice Policy Institute (JPI)
    “Addicted to Courts: How a Growing Dependence on Drug Courts Impacts People and Communities” (2011)
  • Norman L. Reimer, Executive Director, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)
    “America’s Problem-Solving Courts: The Criminal Costs of Treatment and the Case for Reform” (2009)
  • Nuno Capaz, Sociologist, Instituto da Droga e da Toxicodepência, Portugal
    Law no. 30/2000
  • Alex Stevens, Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Kent, United Kingdom
    “What Can We Learn From The Portuguese Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs?” with Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes, British Journal of Criminology (2010)
  • Moderated by Jasmine L. Tyler, Deputy Director, National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance

*Coffee and pastries will be served.  To RSVP, please visit http://drugcourtsandportugalbriefing-autohome.eventbrite.com/ Please contact Emily Brooks at [email protected] with questions or concerns.