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00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770410000PublicSource is an independent, nonprofit news group that focuses on original investigative reporting about critical issues facing Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania region. It was launched to undertake in-depth reporting in the public interest.PublicSource is a content partner of 90.5 WESA.More about PublicSource here.

Drug Courts At Odds With Each Other And The Feds

Illustration by Michelle Garrett

In Allegheny County, Judge Lester Nauhaus sees his drug court as an alternative to the carnage of the drug war.

Drugs drive crime. But locking up addicts doesn’t stop crime. Nor does it stop drug addiction.

“Nail ‘em and jail ‘em wasn’t working,” Nauhaus told PublicSource in an interview. “All it was doing was costing everybody a fortune.”

Instead of locking up defendants, drug courts allow prosecutors, public defenders, judges and others to work together to get defendants to much-needed drug treatment.

But there are clashing opinions about how drug courts should operate.

Many judges, including Nauhaus, ban drug court participants from using treatments like methadone and buprenorphine, calling such medications a “chemical crutch.” He requires participants to focus on abstinence.

That puts the judge and his court in direct conflict with national drug court standards and federal officials, who condemn the banning of medications.

Read more of this report at the website of our partner PublicSource.