Today I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Judge Stacy Cook, Judge Ian English and Renee Craft of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas on the newly implemented Drug Court.
Through my practice, I was aware of the role drug and alcohol addiction plays in criminal behavior, but I was still surprised to learn that studies show addiction is implicated in 80% of offenses that lead to incarceration. Considering Ohio’s 2016 budget for prisons was 1.2 billion, any steps to help offenders address their addiction, reduce probation time and limit further offenses will benefit the entire community.
Defendants facing addiction issues in qualifying cases will have their cases placed on either Judge Cook’s or Judge English’s docket for sentencing. Participants in Drug Court will receive treatment and be closely monitored for compliance with the terms of their probation. The program consists of five phases in which the Defendant is referred to addiction treatment, receives assistance with housing and employment and gradually transitions to step down probation. This program is expected to be completed in 18- 24 months versus the three years of traditional probation. Judge Cook indicated that Defendants are going to be responsible for the things they do incorrectly but that not every mistake will lead to prison. If a Defendant is charged with another felony while participating in Drug Court, they will be removed from the program and be sentenced.
The Drug Court is currently funded by the Lucas County Commissioners. The Court will also pursue grants and funding from the State of Ohio. Today’s panelists believed that Drug Court will result in decreased costs for taxpayers for the societal costs of addiction and incarceration. Moreover, as Judge Ian English pointed out, if the program allows one person to live a drug free life, have a family, work and retirement, then the efforts will be well worth it.