Pubdate: Mon, 17 Feb 2003
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily Independent, Inc.

A Proven Record


The success of drug courts in helping to turn addicted criminals into
law-abiding citizens makes one wonder why such courts have not been
established in all 120 Kentucky counties. They could be helpful
particularly in Eastern Kentucky where many contend drug abuse has
reached epidemic proportions.

Currently, 42 Kentucky counties have drug courts, including Boyd and
Greenup counties. However, only 11 of those courts are in Eastern
Kentucky where the abuse of such pain medications as OxyContin has led
to a number of deaths and the indictments of a number of physicians on
charges of trafficking in the prescription drugs.

Drug courts give convicted offenders with admitted drug problems the
option of either receiving treatment and staying off drugs or going to
jail. Non-violent offenders who voluntarily choose the treatment
option must undergo inpatient or outpatient drug counseling, hold jobs
or take classes, pay restitution and child support if necessary,
attend regular meetings with judges, and undergo regular drug testing.
If they flunk a drug test, they are removed from the program and sent
to jail. However, if they successfully complete the program, they do
not serve any time in jail.

A 2001 study of drug court cases in Jefferson, Fayette and Warren
counties - which had the first three drug courts in the state - found
that only 3.7 percent of the drug court graduates were convicted of
new felonies within a year, compared to 11 percent of those who didn't
complete the program. In short, drug courts are helping people lead
crime-free lives because it no longer is necessary for them to steal
and commit other crimes to feed their drug habits.

By keeping people out of jail, drug courts are saving the state money.
More importantly, they are helping addicts rid themselves of a deadly
habit. That, in turn, is making society safer for us all.

Judges must volunteer their time for drug courts, which require extra
time on the bench. The record shows that the courts are one of the
best ways judges can give of their time. 
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