Pubdate: 25 Dec 1998
Source: The Cincinnati Post (OH)
Copyright: 1998 The Cincinnati Post


Hamilton County's drug court, which emphasizes substance abuse treatment
over jail sentences, has changed lives and saved taxpayers money.

It's also become a state model for dealing with criminal addicts. Seventeen
other Ohio counties now run drug courts; all are modeled after the one
pioneered here three years ago.

Naturally, Common Pleas Court Judge Deidra Hair, who runs the drug court,
wants to expand on its success. She and other county officials are lobbying
the state for a second drug court judge, so the court can try their
approach on a broader range of criminals with drug and alcohol problems.

The expansion itself would be a good move for Hamilton County.

While traditional courts focus on punishing criminals, the drug court works
at overcoming addiction - the root cause of crime for many. The result is
people who go through drug court are less likely to return to crime. And
that means fewer people in jail and fewer people clogging court dockets.

Why not try this successful approach on a larger number of criminals with
addiction problems? There are plenty of potential candidates. Research
indicates that 80 percent of criminals have drug or alcohol problems.

But expanding the drug court does not require creating a new judgeship.
Instead, the county should move one of its current 15 Common Pleas judges
to drug court.

The expansion won't create new court cases, it will merely shift some of
the existing load to a courtroom operating under a different philosophy.
And if the expanded court proves as successful as the first, it will
actually reduce the number of cases on the overall court docket.

Shifting the workload of a current judge is logical for financial reasons,
as well. The primary hold-up to the drug court expansion is money. Paying
for another judge, staff and courtroom would only makes the expansion that
much more difficult.

Fortunately, Hamilton County already has some federal grant money that will
allow the drug court to expand the treatment portion of its programs.

That grant, which the county shares with the city of Cincinnati, will allow
the court to provide more follow-up counseling for addicted criminals after
they go through substance abuse treatment.

Expanding the scope of Hamilton County's drug court makes sense. We have
the human resources to do it.

The challenge - a surmountable one - is coming up with enough money to pay
for the programming needed to make it a success. 
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