Pubdate: Tue, 13 Jun 2000
Source: Journal Gazette (IN)
Copyright: 2000 Journal Gazette
Contact:  600 W. Main Street, Ft. Wayne, IN. 46802
Fax: (219) 461-8648


Allen County officials should view the Superior Court's drug court program 
as a long-term investment, one that pays rewarding dividends now and will 
achieve greater savings in the future.

County Council members should make the continuation of the drug court a top 
priority when they begin hearings later this summer on the 2001 county 
budget. Allen Superior Court Chief Judge Kenneth Scheibenberger plans to 
request $150,000 to $250,000 - depending on federal and state grants - to 
finance the court.

Scheibenberger is right to propose that the money come not from taxpayers 
but from people convicted of drunken driving and other alcohol-related 
offenses who already pay fees into the Alcohol Countermea-sures Program.

The War on Drugs has cost the nation billions of dollars, filled prisons 
and clogged the courts. If the nation is ever to dramatically reduce the 
flow of drugs, programs such as the drug court - meant to end demand for 
illegal drugs one user at a time - are a big part of the answer.

The program is for people charged with drug possession. Participants must 
complete a year-long or 18-month program, which includes random drug tests 
and substance abuse counseling. Participants must remain employed and meet 
with the judge regularly. Those who owe child support must remain current 
on their payments.

Charges against the graduates are dismissed if they are not arrested on a 
drug or violent crime within six months.

The results so far - the program began in 1997 - are hopeful. Of about 225 
people initially accepted, 73 have graduated and more than 100 remain 
active. Of the 73 graduates, only three have been arrested again for drug 

The program frees much needed jail space and saves the cost of feeding and 
housing inmates. Each drug court graduate represents one less criminal 
defendant who takes up the time of a deputy prosecutor and probation officer.

Each graduate who successfully ends drug use marks one less customer for 
dealers; one less person who will draw friends or family into drug use; one 
less person who commits crimes to finance a habit.

The program was initially funded with a federal grant, which expires Sept. 30.

The program, with four employees, now costs about $250,000 a year to run. 
With more money, it could expand to include repeat misdemeanor drunken 
drivers or repeat offenders of other misdemeanor laws who have drug problems.

Scheibenberger hopes to receive additional grant money. But Allen County 
should do its share and approve the judge's request in August after he 
knows whether the program received other grants.

The investment will pay off almost immediately and continue to pay in the 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D