Pubdate: Sat, 20 Oct 2007
Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2007 The Olympian
Author: Jeremy Pawloski, The Olympian
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


OLYMPIA -- An eight-year study of Thurston County's Drug Court found that 
graduates are less likely than other offenders to be subsequently convicted 
of a crime.

The study found that the court saved $2.89 million that would have been 
incurred by putting drug court attendees in jail, prison or by placing them 
under community supervision.

"We can't keep putting people away forever," said Robert Kirchner of 
Glacier Consulting Inc.

"There needs to be alternatives to incarceration."

Along with reducing recidivism, drug court also helps offenders by giving 
them treatment for their addictions.

Kirchner, a researcher with the consulting group, presented the study's 
findings Friday in Superior Court.

Drug court is a voluntary, court-supervised treatment program that allows 
some defendants the opportunity to have their nonviolent felonies 
dismissed, provided they successfully complete the program.

The program requires participants to stay sober and meet specific goals, 
such as attending programs such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, and 
continuing their education or maintaining continuous employment.

Superior Court Judge Richard Strophy meets with drug court offenders weekly.

Strophy gives sanctions such as jail time or community service to those who 
don't meet the program's requirements, such as not using drugs or alcohol.

According to Glacier's study, only 20 percent of the county's drug court 
graduates were subsequently convicted of another crime in the eight-year 
period, compared with 45 percent in a control group.

Of the drug court graduates who were subsequently convicted, only 7 percent 
committed a drug offense, Kirchner said.

"I hope that's because we changed their lives," he said.

The study also shows that 57 percent of those who failed to complete drug 
court were subsequently rearrested.

Kirchner said the drug of choice locally -- at 57 percent -- was 

Steven Freng, a prevention/treatment manager for the Northwest High 
Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, said that Thurston County's drug court is, 
to his knowledge, the first such court nationwide that incorporates 
treatment of trauma. Traumas are an underlying cause of many individuals' 
substance abuse, said Susan Brown, a social worker who works with drug 
court participants.

Thurston County Drug Court graduates spoke about how completing the program 
has had a positive effect.

Bobbie Kuenstler, a 2006 graduate, talked about how trauma treatment helped 
her deal with being a rape victim and helped her stop using meth. She said 
if she hadn't completed that treatment, she doesn't believe she'd be alive.

Thomas Poage, a 2002 graduate, spoke about how he used to get arrested 
regularly and explained he "was a pretty problematic person for the 
Tumwater Police Department."

He said drug court helped him address the trauma of his brother's death, 
and turn his life around.

"This opportunity for me was huge," he said. "It was a life-changing 
experience, and it worked."

Jeremy Pawloski covers public safety for The Olympian.
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