Celebrities lobby lawmakers on drug courts
Celebrities including actor Martin Sheen lobbied Congress to continue funding the nation's drug courts. Drug courts combine substance abuse treatment with judicial supervision instead of sending offenders to jail.
Actor Matthew Perry has fought drug addiction himself. "At one point in my life I took enough prescription pain medicine to kill a small horse,” he said.
Emmy-winner Martin Sheen, himself a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, passionately called for Congress to keep the funding.
“We need to focus on those who are most in need and have no voice, that's the primary focus of drug court,” Sheen said. Sheen and others are asking Congress to fund drug courts at a minimum of $88.7 million for fiscal year 2012, ABC News reports.
In the days of partisan bickering Republicans and Democrats spoke out in support of the program.
“We need to treat drug addiction as a medical condition and reserve space in our prisons for those who are violent,” said Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Perhaps the most poignant support of drug court came from Elizabeth Johnson. She was arrested in an Illinois crack house at 17, sent through drug court, cleaned up her life and is now a state's attorney working for the man who created the program there.
“He gets really excited, says I've come full circle. Apparently I'm the only drug court graduate who is now a prosecutor,” Johnson said.
An advocacy group said while the drug court programs are good, given the current debt crisis, they are just too expensive.
There are more than 2,500 Drug Courts nationwide, ABC News reports, and nearly 120,000 Americans a year receive help from the programs.