Pubdate: Tue, 03 Dec 2002
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2002 The Daily Independent, Inc.
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


Drug Courts Attack the Cause of Crimes by Offering Felons Treatment, Not Jail

Julie Bentley is right when she says drug courts are not a 
"get-out-of-jail-free card" like in Monopoly. Instead, drug courts attempt 
to turn individuals away from a life of crime by attacking the cause of 
their crimes: Drug addiction.

The theory is that if drug courts can successfully help people kick the 
habit, those individuals no longer will have to commit crimes to feed those 
habits. Selected addicts convicted of non-violent crimes can choose 
treatment over jail time. For many, avoiding jail is a powerful incentive 
to straighten out their lives.

The number of drug courts has increased rapidly in recent years, not only 
in Kentucky but throughout the country. The reason for that increase is 
because they have proven effective.

Bentley recently was named treatment coordinator for the adult drug court 
program in Greenup and Lewis counties. As a full-time employee of the 
Administrative Office of Courts, it is her task to insure that those 
assigned to the program follow its guidelines by attending drug treatment 
programs, receiving counseling, regularly being tested for drug use, and 
showing up for frequent court appearances to measure their progress.

In Greenup and Lewis counties, participants in the program who lack a high 
school degree also must attend GED classes and eventually earn the high 
school equivalency degree. Since the lack of an education necessary to 
qualify for many jobs can be a contributing factor to crime, the GED 
requirement is a sound one.

As a licensed professional clinic counselor with 12 years experience as a 
certified drug counselor, Bentley is well qualified for her new position. 
She abandoned her campaign to become mayor of South Shore and resigned from 
the South Shore Board of City Commissioners to accept her new job, ending 
16 years of service in city government.

Drug courts don't work for everyone. In fact, Bentley said one person 
assigned to her ultimately chose to go to jail after finding the treatment 
program too difficult to follow. But for those who successfully complete 
the program, they not only have avoided going to jail, but they have kicked 
the addiction that led them to turn to crime. That's good for them, 
individually, and for society as a whole.
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