Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said special courts to handle drug offenders work better than just sending people to prison. Speaking before a meeting of judges, she said that in 1987 when people were charged with possessing a small amount of cocaine, nothing happened to them. They got credit for time served, got no sort of treatement, and were rotated through the system. So Miami set up a drug court which mixed punitive measures with rehabilitation programs. The program's success became a model for the rest of the country. The court proved it could reduce repeat drug offenses. Courts and judges found that with sufficient resources they could make a tremendous difference in the criminal justice system.
Reno also said that juvenile court systems throughout the country need reform. Legislatures seem to be taking power away from the juvenile courts and transferring it to adult courts. Judges must be given the authority to control some of the decisions.
Family institutions have failed a large number of children in America. There must be re-entry programs to give youngsters the opportunity to come back to communities with a chance for success. We have to think in terms of alternative housing, pre-natal care, and mentoring programs. Violence prevention programs should combine medical, public health, social work, and all other disciplines that would make a difference in a child's life.