From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 49 - March 4, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Treatment rather than jail
Drug and alcohol offenders in Sublette County can now opt for the drug court
by Janet Montgomery

A year in the making, the Sublette County court system has an option for drug and alcohol offenders to get more than incarceration - help and treatment.

Circuit Court Judge John V. Crow said the philosophy of the drug court is "to get people who need help with addictions into treatment rather than jail. It's a proven fact that jail is not productive."

The Sublette County Alcohol and Drug Court team consists of seven members, including Crow, as well Sublette County Attorney Van Graham, Sublette County Public Defender Greg Blenkinsop, Sublette County Undersheriff Henry Schmidt, Treatment Specialist Jeff Swain, Sublette County Probation Officer Lisa Randol and Sublette County Drug Court Coordinator Jeannie Whinnery.

The seven-member team screens candidates individually for the drug court.

Crow said that sometimes it's not an available option, as a candidate might not qualify if there is a prior violent felony conviction, according to a pamphlet.

But the big advantage of the drug court is that it provides treatment options that an individual can afford.

"It makes it available to anyone who wishes to choose that option over jail or penalties," Crow said. "Where you might order it, (and) they can't afford, you haven't really accomplished anything."

With federal government aid in funding of the drug court system for participant treatment, participants still have to pay what they can afford.

"The thing that people might react at first about it, is that it's a free ride," Crow said. "It certainly isn't ... "

The drug court has four phases, followed by a graduation upon completion of the program, according to the pamphlet.

In phase one, which lasts about two months, frequent drug tests are required along with outpatient sessions as outlined by a treatment provider. Attendance at AA/NA meetings every night is available, and the client is subject to judicial reviews twice a month as well as meetings with the drug court probation officer, according to the pamphlet.

In phase two, which lasts about two months, much of the same process is continued with a reduction in the number of drug tests and judicial reviews and the addition of beginning counseling, starting work toward a GED if needed, or pursuit of employment, if needed.

Drug testing takes place just once a week in phase three and four, each of which lasts about four months. Meetings with a drug court probation officer is continued as well as treatment sessions, AA/NA meeting attendance, and a once-a-month judicial review.

According to the pamphlet, "The Sublette County Alcohol and Drug Court combines monitoring, close supervision, frequent drug and/or alcohol testing, treatment sessions, specialized counseling, job training and other assistance necessary for a successful completion to the program."

Crow said that while no one from Sublette County has graduated from all four phases, there have been some entering later phases.

The year-long process is estimated at an average cost per participant at $4,800, compared to $25,000 per offender per year for incarceration, Crow wrote in a letter to Senator Craig Thomas.

Crow also quoted a National Institute of Justice report to Thomas, stating, "... recidivism rates for drug court participants one year after graduation were mere 16.5 percent and only 27.5 percent after two years. These numbers are particularly impressive when compared to the recidivism rates of 60 to 80 percent that are typically experienced by those who do not participate in the drug court program."

"Our own experience is about he same they would expect nationwide," Crow said. "We are seeing what I think is remarkable success, certainly not 100 percent, but success."

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