Asa Hutchinson
Drug Enforcement Administration
Ohio Association of Drug Court Professionals
Columbus, Ohio
May 10, 2002

(Administrator Hutchinson often deviates from prepared text.)

Good morning. I'm delighted to be in Ohio. Thank you Chief Justice Moyer, Justice Stephens, and the entire Ohio Supreme Court for the invitation to join you at your annual conference. As an attorney and former prosecutor, all the judges here this morning are making me feel right at home.

Also, I'd like to recognize Luceille Fleming and her staff for their tremendous work here in Ohio. All of you here are having a great impact in Ohio. With 50 drug courts and growing, Ohio is a real leader in helping those with addiction problems. Thank you for your dedication.

I also have to thank Judge Durkin for his kind words. It was a real pleasure to visit his courtroom last fall and take part in the drug court graduation ceremony. Youngstown, Ohio, is sometimes known for my former colleague--Jim Traficant. But it will always be known to me as having one of the best drug courts in the nation.

In Congress and now at the DEA, I've visited a number of drug courts — from California to Florida. I'm impressed. I like the adversary system of justice. But in drug courts — all the adversaries have one goal!

I also saw the teamwork that leads to the success of drug courts. I don't think there's ever been such an unlikely team of prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, case managers, and counselors working together so well. It's a team effort that is making a difference: offenders are overcoming their addictions.

And that's the first thing I'd like to talk about this morning: the great success drugs courts are having, and I encourage you to continue working against the reform initiative in Ohio that seeks to undo that success. Second, the importance of a partnership between enforcement and treatment in the anti-drug effort.

First, successes. One of the great myths of this decade is that there is no success in our anti-drug efforts in this country. But the facts are that cocaine use in this country is down by 75 percent during the last 15 years. That's 4 million people fewer that use cocaine on a regular basis today than 15 years ago. Overall drug use has been reduced by 50 percent since it reached its peak level in the late 1970s. That's 9.3 million people fewer using illegal drugs. Ideas make a difference. Drug courts are an idea that work.

The success of drug courts needs to be better recognized. In them, we have the power to mandate addicts into treatment and ensure that they stay there. With drug courts, we get long-lasting results with low levels of relapse. It is treatment with accountability.

The great success of drug courts could be weakened by the movement underway in Ohio to get a so-called treatment over jail initiative on the November ballot. Drug Treatment Initiative. It is ill-conceived and would undermine the efforts of the state of Ohio in providing treatment with the possibility of sanctions. Your Governor and his wife are doing a great job speaking out. I'm meeting with the Governor and his wife later today, and I will lend my support to that cause.

I want to encourage you to keep educating the public about what this initiative would really do. You are the experts, and the public needs to hear from you. They need to know Ohio already has a treatment over jail system: it's called drug courts, and it's working tremendously well.

These initiatives can be defeated. On the November 2000 ballot in Massachusetts, they had "Question 8," a similar proposition to that in California and now in Ohio. Now, if this kind of initiative could pass anywhere, you might expect Massachusetts would be one of the places it could do so easily. But, it was defeated. How? By a grass roots information campaign. Led by the state's district attorneys, the citizens of Massachusetts answered the formidable political machine sponsoring these initiatives with a resounding: "Not in our state."

There's also good news from Florida, where supporters of a similar initiative weren't able to get enough signatures to get it on this fall's ballot. Florida's drug czar led an impressive public campaign against that initiative.

So, clearly, we can win against this movement.

These initiatives have a great appeal because they reduce the incarceration rate for people with addiction problems and give them a treatment option. That's a positive thing.

But the problem is there's no accountability in that system that mandates probation rather than incarceration. It doesn't have accountability in terms of reporting to the judge, strict sanctions, and mandatory treatment. There's a real gap there. It too easily allows defendants to waive off the criminal justice system.

Drug courts work because of mandatory testing, immediate sanctions for drug use, frequent appearances in front of the same judge, and close supervision of rehabilitation.

The other problem is that these initiatives are being used by the legalization movement to further their cause. This political machine, with very deep pockets, is financing these initiatives because they think the war on drugs is a mistaken policy.

Their goal is to approach legalization incrementally, and they have found a way — through the state ballot initiative process--to reach this goal. Good citizens have learned that ballot initiatives can be misused by special interests.

Drug courts need to be supported and expanded — not undermined. This Administration supports your efforts:

--In the President's 2003 budget, he has requested an additional $2 million more for drug courts. Overall, this Administration has heavily invested in treatment.
--This fiscal year, we have budgeted more than $3 billion for drug abuse treatment, a 27% increase over 1999.

As head of the DEA — I support effective treatment programs. It's not about competition. Law enforcement supports your efforts.

Second topic: Importance of a partnership between enforcement and treatment. I'll briefly mention three reasons there should be a great partnership between enforcement and treatment.

First, enforcement triggers treatment and identifies violators that need help with a drug problem. As you all know, most people do not volunteer for drug treatment. It is more often an outside motivator, like an arrest, that gets — and keeps — them in treatment. Jennifer Malloy is a great example of that. But stories similar to hers are played out in drug courts across the country every day. You all see it first hand. Drug courts are saving lives one at a time.

The second reason for the partnership between enforcement and treatment is that enforcement creates risk and reduced availability of drugs. Letter from parents. Ecstasy. I know all of you saw the movie Traffic. I understand parts of the movie were filmed here in Ohio, and so we have something in common. Parts of the movie were also filmed at DEA offices, particularly in El Paso.

One of the questions I'm asked most is have I seen that movie? The answer is yes, and I enjoyed it. But there's an interesting story behind the movie that many people don't know. Stephen Gaghan, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of the film is a former drug addict who was saved largely because of drug enforcement.

After the movie came out, people asked him how he was able to write such realistic dialogue. No one knew that he himself had been an addict. So he decided to come clean in a long interview with The New York Times. He told the Times reporter that he had been abusing drugs for two decades. He said that nothing could shake him of his habit. What finally got him to seek help was the arrest not only of his heroin dealer, but his backup dealer and his backup-backup dealer. All three dealers were behind bars. "I was left alone," he said. "That was the end of it." He finally decided to enter treatment. Reduced availability.

And the third reason for enforcement and treatment working together is that treatment gives lasting success to law enforcement.

  • Frustrations:
    --Take down the dealers
    --Nothing changes in the community
    --2 months later, business as usual.

I chair the Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police: passed a formal resolution supporting drug courts.

A new initiative we've undertaken at the DEA will also increase this partnership and giving lasting impact to our efforts. It's called the IDEA program, which stands for Integrated Drug Enforcement Assistance. The DEA takes pride in removing criminal organizations from neighborhoods. But if the demand remains and the community has not changed, then another trafficking organization takes over.

That is frustrating to law enforcement. We want our work to have lasting results. With the IDEA program, our approach is to dismantle the criminal organizations, but at the same time work side-by-side with the community on drug awareness and prevention efforts and build treatment programs and community coalitions.

With IDEA, we will double the number of our demand reduction coordinators in DEA. These are agents that work in schools and communities to educate about drugs. We will also encourage 15 percent of the seized and forfeited assets be transferred to treatment and education programs. This builds the team concept between all those that are engaged in the anti-drug effort.

And so, law enforcement:

--triggers treatment
--creates risk and reduces availability
--you give lasting success to our efforts.

Thank you for your work. Everyday, you reduce demand, but also give people a second chance at life. A winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Literature, described America this way: "For more than three centuries, the word 'American' has designated a man who is defined not by what he had done, but what he would do."

Through your work in drug courts, you're giving many Americans the chance to move past what they had done--to now be defined on what they would do. Through your work, you change an offender of the law into a contender in life.

God bless each of you for the commitment you have made to building drug-free lives. You are making a better and safer America. Thank you. ##

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