Friday, February 22, 2008

Drug Courts Work

My good friend Jeff is the Director of the Drug Court in Cville. He has invited me numerous times to come to the graduations of the program. I have not taken him up on it, mostly because I have a conflict at 8:30 in the morning on those days. He tells me, and others have told me as well HOW great these graduations are because of the long road the graduates have traveled.

I also saw Judge Hogshire and Jeff at two presentations about the drug courts this year- the Bar Association and the Dem Breakfast.

Participants in the program have random and frequent drug tests the whole time in the program (12-24 month average- longer than the prison term they would have served). The participant must have a job and take care of their responsibilities (child support) and attend multiple meetings/classes a week to ascertain progress and learn new skills.

Drug Courts are not a free pass to go back to a life of crime. Given the limited funding of the program and the regular threats of cuts to the program, the courts continue to impress and graduate productive citizens. Can that be said for most regional jails? What are we trying to prove by warehousing everyone in prison? I am unsure why the House of Delegates took the money out of the budget for this valuable program- it reeks of political expediency ("we are so tough on crime we will let nonviolent drug criminals go to jail at a greater expense than these drug courts").

I pray cooler heads prevail and drug court programming is restored to the budget through the conferee process. Del. Rob Bell has never attended a graduation and likes to have his head in the sand about the issue while slashing the budget, if you are in his district, let him know drug courts work and should not be a political football.

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