The Drug Court concept is not a new one and after 25 years of efforts across the nation, one national magazine has done a feature story on Drug Courts released just days before a national conference this summer.
The May edition of “Courts Today” featured an in depth article titled “Drug Courts: 25 Years Later” authored by Contributing Editor Michael Grohs which discussed the facts of how drug courts work and the figures showing their effectiveness. The feature also discussed the National Association of Drug Court Professionals 20th Annual Training conference the last week in May in Anaheim California where some local professionals were to be found in attendance.
Logan Regional Day Report Coordinator Michelle Akers explained that because the Drug Court programs in Logan and neighboring counties work hand to help get people off of drugs and back on track once they have been ensnared in the legal system that it was a natural that local community corrections personnel be in attendance at the national meeting.
“Chief Probation Officer Charles Brown, Drug Court Coordinator Tiffany Robinson, and Drug Court Case Manager Erin Stone and Juvenile Drug Court Coordinator Ashlee Collier from Logan County were there along with Chief Probation Officer Jerry Swanson and Circuit Court Judge Will Thompson from Boone and Lincoln Counties was there… Also, Justin Knapp and Rachel Perdue from the Boone County Day Report Center were in attendance,” she noted.
5000 of the nations 27,000 justice professionals and community leaders were expected to attend the conference, which covered different aspects of dealing with people who have a drug problem and helping them find their way down the road to recovery.
“They had a whole room set up as an Expo showing the latest drug screening tests and technology and new programs available for professionals,” Stone said.
Chief Probation Officer Charles Brown said a major focus of the meeting was learning about hardware and testing tech which can help professionals stay ahead of the curve in regards to dealing with people who attempt to cheat the system.
In the Coalfields Drug Courts are set up in local counties under the supervision of a board of directors, Judges, treatment professionals and Probation officials and they utilize services provided for by Day Report Centers in Logan, Boone, Mingo and Lincoln Counties. If a non-violent offender is deemed acceptable for drug court he or she can be transferred into Drug Court where they will receive regular near- daily screenings for the first phase of the program and where they attend classes and receive counseling at Day Report Centers to help get them off drugs and to address the issues which caused them to get in trouble with the law.
Over time, successful clients move through the program - which can be customized to assist them in terms of their educational or occupational needs. Upon graduation a client should have the skills and abilities he or she needs to get their life back on track and to say off drugs. By that time they also should have learned the value of putting together a support system of friends and family who can help them stay sober and maintain their recovery and avoid relapse.
The Courts Today article notes that nationwide studies have shown over the past 25 years that 75 percent of Drug Court graduates are never arrested again.
Dr. David Festinger of the Treatment Research Institute of Philadelphia is quoted in the article as saying that Drug Courts save on average $13,000 per client.
“The bottom line is that it saves the bottom line,” Festinger told Michael Grohs. “For every dollar invested in Drug Courts, taxpayers save $3.36 in criminal justice costs alone. That figure does not take into account hospitalization, victimization etc.” Festinger said some estimates claim total cost savings at up to $27 per $1 spent. The state of Texas has 136 drug courts that have saved an estimated $2 billion in prison spending as well as allowing the state to close some old prisons, reduce parole offenses and lower overall crime rates.
The article notes that TRI has been working with drug courts for 14 years and is responsible for some of the first randomized control studies of the courts.
Currently there are 2,800 Drug Courts functioning nationwide with more being adopted regularly. As Michael Grohs notes in his feature story the US is currently leading the way in how courts deal with offenders with substance abuse problems across the globe as 23 countries besides the US now have initiated Drug Court programs of their own.
In addition to presentations and workshops at the conference professionals attending will also get introduced to company reps from Confirm BioSciences, Orasure Technologies and American Bio Medica Corporation among others were in attendance at the conference to discuss their products, many of which were set up specifically for the needs of Drug Courts.
More Drug Court and Day Report programs are coming cross the state to counties which do not currently have them. At a recent Drug Court graduation ceremony Logan Circuit Judge Eric O’Briant pointed out that Logan had been so successful as a pilot program for Drug Courts in this part of the state that that by July of 2016 every county in West Virginia will have access to a Drug Court program.
Officials from Berkeley county sent three people down recently to observe how the Day Report and Drug Court programs work, noted Day Report Officer Pat Robinette.
Over a decade ago, Logan Circuit Judge O’Briant and his fellow Judge Roger Perry approached the Logan County Commission and asked to pilot a Drug Court program for Logan County. O’Briant initially convinced the County Commission about the value of the program by pointing out its potential to save the county money, but in time the commissioners saw its importance in other ways.
The whole purpose of Drug Court programs is getting people out of the system, helping fix the problems they have that caused them to get into trouble with the law and make them contributing members of society again, noted State Senator Art Kirkendoll at a recent public event. The Logan County Commission had been a strong supporter of the program from day one and as Judge O’Briant noted at the last Drug Court graduation explaining how the program would not be able to help people were it not for the support shown by the commission, the state government and the federal government.