In 20 years since the first Drug Court was founded, there has been more research published on the effects of Drug Courts than on virtually all other criminal justice programs combined. The scientific community put Drug Courts under a microscope and concluded that Drug Courts work. Better than jail or prison. Better than probation and treatment alone. Drug Courts significantly reduce drug use and crime and are more cost-effective than any other proven criminal justice strategy.The Adult Drug Court program in La Plata County was established in 2001 as one of the first Colorado Drug Courts.
The primary goal of the Drug Court program is to integrate substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, intensive supervision and judicial oversight to promote public safety and individual responsibility. Drug Court holds participants accountable and helps develop the skills necessary to attain long term sobriety.
The Drug Court program reduces barriers to treatment by funding nearly 50% of the cost of treatment and substance monitoring.
Offenders may be referred to the program by their attorney or a probation officer. Following the initial referral, offenders are screened by the Drug Court team. The team consists of the Drug Court Judge, Drug Court probation officer, a Deputy District Attorney, Treatment Providers, the defendant’s attorney and the Drug Court Coordinator.
Initial screening determines treatment needs and the willingness of the candidate to fully participate in Drug Court. If all parties agree that the candidate is accepted into Drug Court, the expectation is that treatment will begin immediately.
The Drug Court program is structured in three phases, with each phase lasting for a minimum of 90 days.
- Phase I – includes required intensive treatment, community service, drug and alcohol monitoring, weekly meetings with the Drug Court Probation officer and appearances at Drug Court reviews twice per month.
- Phase II – Everything from Phase I with the following exceptions - meetings with the Drug Court Probation Officer and Court appearances are reduced in frequency. A payment schedule for court costs is established in this phase.
- Phase III – In this phase treatment is completed; court costs are paid in full; community service is completed and meetings with the Drug Court probation officer and court appearances are further reduced in frequency.
The program utilizes sanctions and rewards. Sanctions for violations may include a return to an earlier phase of the program; inpatient treatment; halfway house programs; mental health treatment; additional community service; additional drug/alcohol monitoring; increased self-help meetings or incarceration. Rewards for program compliance may include reduced community service; reduced drug/alcohol testing; gift cards; verbal recognition in court and permission to travel.
Drug Court outcomes:
La Plata County Drug Court has experienced a 73% overall graduation rate (over the last 10 years). Most importantly the successful participant enjoys a life of sobriety and is armed with the tools for a bright and positive future.
*A participant will receive a handbook with complete Drug Court details. This information is not meant to be a complete description of the Drug Court program.
Walk into any courtroom in America and you will hear two words that bring everyone to attention. As the judge takes the bench and the court officer loudly proclaims, "All rise," the courtroom quiets down and all stand focused on our system of justice. But this command -- "all rise" -- carries with it an implicit and solemn promise: the promise that our judicial system will raise the quality of life for the people coming before it and for our community.For the many addicted individuals who appear before the courts each year, this includes the promise that they will receive the treatment and other tools they need to change their lives. Because we know that whenever one person rises out of addiction and crime, we all rise as a community. When the intergenerational cycle of drug addiction in a family is broken and healing begins, we all rise. When a child is reunited with clean and sober parents, we all rise. Whether the charge is driving while impaired, theft, burglary or any number of other addiction-driven offenses, we all rise when a Drug Court guides the offender past the chaos and wreckage and toward recovery.
"When a court orders an addict to treatment instead of prison, we ALL RISE" - Martin Sheen
"When a Drug Court restores a broken family, we ALL RISE" – Slash
A Story from Drug Court:
As much as I hate to admit it, the Drug Court program is the only reason I am not writing this from prison right now. Before I entered the program, my life was pretty crazy. I probably do not need to mention that, because everyone that is in or thinking about going into the program is the same way. The difference is I could not see it, I was a pretty average college kid, or so I thought. I thought my alcohol abuse and drug use was completely normal for any college kid. Oh man was I wrong, everything was completely out of control and my life was going downhill faster than I could imagine.
When I first entered Drug Court, I thought it was the worst thing in the world, and let's just say my relationship with my probation officer was not very great. I hated her. I spent the first few months just going through the motions, waiting for my testing to go down a little bit so I could drink again. When the testing went down, I had a hot BA less than 48 hours later. Drug Court gave me a second chance. I spent 45 days in a treatment center in Alamosa, not very fun, I was one of four people there that were not straight out of prison, but man I learned that the last place in the world I want to go was prison. When I got back I made the best decision of my life - I decided to try and actually work the program. With the help of my probation officer and my counselor from Balance Counseling, my life made a complete 180. I got back in school and for the first time since sixth grade was keeping my GPA above a 3.5. This continued for about eight months, and then one day I got the cuffs put back on for something that had happened a year earlier.
Someone had worn a wire into my house when I had first started Drug Court. I guess my thought process was, hey I'm not on drugs anymore. If I sell them I'll make even more money. I was looking at 4-16 years in prison. Because the task force waited so long to bring up the case, my probation officer had been able to see a change in my attitude and a big change in my life. With the amount of time I had been doing everything right under my belt, my counselor and my probation officer went to bat for me, saying that I was on the right track and prison was not completely necessary for me. With their help, I got two years of probation on a distribution charge rather than four years in prison. I guess the point of my story is that if you are willing to accept the fact that you might have problems and are willing to change, the Drug Court program can really help.
My probation officer and I started off with a really rocky relationship. It is very clear to me now that her intentions have always been good, and if you actually work the program she does notice and will be there for you. If I had to do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing, the Drug Court program completely changed my life for the better and I will never forget the amount of help and support I received from my counselor, Mike Johnston, and my probation officer, Denise Bradford. I am living proof that the Drug Court program does work.
-Ex Drug Court client, Mark Johnson