Las Vegas Drug Court’s 20 Year Anniversary

Oct. 22, 2012

Jack Lehman was the first Drug Court Judge in Nevada and one of the first in the nation. This week Las Vegas celebrates the 20th anniversary of Drug court. The newspapers claim that Drug Court has saved the state 40 million dollars over the past 20 years. But more importantly, Drug Court has saved innumerable lives.

And its done more than that. I remember talking to Jack Lehman in the early years of Drug Court, when being a Drug Court Judge didn’t always bring accolades and compliments, but often attacks and derision. Some were upset that we were working with the drug users rather than putting them in prison where they belonged. Some were angry that our programs were turning Judge’s into social workers, , and some hated the idea that the drug user, a morally corrupt, irredeemable miscreant was being helped.

I remember conversations i had with Jack and other Drug Court Judges in the early 90’s. What was clear to most of us was that no matter the success of the Drug Court as an institution, that the drug offender would never be seen again as a corrupt, a lost soul, without merit, hope or future. We had brought the outcast back inside the community circle and no matter what should happen to Drug Court, he or she was here to stay.

And so it has been. Drug Courts have led the way, followed by a plethora of prison alternatives that see the offender as a soul that can be redeemed and returned to the community. The  success of the drug court movement, to my mind, is largely responsible for the movement toward prison reform, proof of the change in attitude and culture that has taken place over the past twent years.

So Happy Birthday Jack, and I wish you and your Drug Court twenty more.

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