After being arrested on DWI and drug possession charges back in 2006 in New York, Anastasio was sent to drug court. Drug courts are a cost effective alternative to jail that produce lower recidivism rates than lengthy prison sentences. They're also more humane and aim to help people overcome drug addictions through substance abuse treatment and community service.
Anastasio recently graduated from the drug court program and is touting its effect on his life.
"I've been sober for two-and-a-half years," he says to applause. "My children are happy. In August, my wife and I will celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary. My band is back together with a sold-out tour. And in September I'll play a solo concert at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic."He's also talking about the failure of the prison system for non-violent drug offenders.
Anastasio saw it first-hand when he missed an appointment and was sent to jail for two days. "I can tell you that behind bars there was rampant drug use," he says. "What's more, the people I met there spent their time blaming judges and lawyers for their circumstances. Not in drug court. In drug court, full responsibility rest with you and you alone."If even Trey Anastasio can see that the drug war has failed so badly that we can't even keep drugs out of our jails and drug courts are proven to work at reducing spending, drug use, and crime rates, why aren't drug courts the staple? As usual, Ryan Grim hits the nail on the head.
Despite their proven effectiveness over the past two decades, drug courts have had to compete for dollars with the prison industry, and when it comes to lobbying might, the drug courts are outgunned. Despite the expense and ineffectiveness of locking people up, the U.S. continues to do it at rates higher than any other nation. Nationally, more than $60 billion was spent locking people up last year. States spend $65,000 on prison construction per inmate and another $23,876 annually to take care of the prisoner, according to the Pew Public Safety Performance Project.While drug courts aren't a magic bullet, Anastasio is lucky to have been sent to drug court instead of prison and it's certainly admirable that he is speaking publicly about overcoming an addiction and his support for the program.