Drug Court helps people repair their lives

Posted on: December 6, 2010

In the Fourth Judicial District of Colorado Springs, Colorado there is an eleven year program that helps people facing their first ever felony drug charge to get a second and sometimes a third chance.

The court employees a team of two psychotherapist, two probation officers, a prosecutor from the District Attorney’s office and a Magistrate who assess the offenders’ issues and needs. They then equip them with a “toolbox” of coping strategies and plug them into services to help them get clean and stay that way.

As of Oct. 19, 624 people had successfully completed the program. This represents a graduation rate of about 76 percent. The graduates are rewarded with dismissal of the charge that got them into Drug Court. If they can stay clean for two years after graduation and undergo aftercare for the first of those two years, they can even get their records sealed.

Most participants can finish the program in a year as they pass through three phases that require several commitments: random drug tests, meetings with probation officers, regularly scheduled court appearances and the presentation of a “life plan” after the last phase.

They’re allowed up to four “strikes” — mistakes — in the first two phases, and one in the third. However, that isn’t set in stone, because the DA can combine strikes and give more opportunity to people.  One drug felon said that she had five strikes in her first three weeks because she wasn’t taking things seriously. But now she is and is expected to graduate in the next group. Maybe Lindsey Lohan should attend this program; it may help her chances to be successful.

One of the reasons Drug Court works is that consequences for behavior are immediate and swift.  It’s not so focused on strikes as it is on accountability, honesty and success.  For that reason, the Drug Court team says that the biggest reward goes beyond their status with the legal system. They leave with a sense of accomplishment, higher self-esteem, a much healthier body, a set of coping tools and the prospect of a rosier future.


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