Wright County Drug Court receives final approval; program expected to launch in October
Posted: Tuesday, August 9, 2016
District court and county leaders in Wright County will soon launch a new initiative aimed at reducing drug crime and abuse in the community. After months of planning by local officials, a proposal to establish the Wright County Adult Drug Court was recently approved by the Minnesota Judicial Council, and local justice system officials expect to open the program in October.
“Drug courts are a proven and innovative approach to reducing drug crime by helping those struggling with addiction break the cycle of drug abuse, arrest, and incarceration,” said Tenth Judicial District Court Judge Michele A. Davis, who will preside over the Wright County Adult Drug Court alongside the Honorable Geoffrey W. Tenney. “Throughout Minnesota, we have seen countless examples of repeat drug offenders entering drug courts, finding the help and treatment they need, and graduating the program sober, employed, and ready to contribute to their community. My fellow judges and I are eager to bring the benefits of the drug court approach to Wright County, and thank our county partners for helping move this initiative forward.”
Drug courts are specialized court programs that target non-violent criminal offenders who suffer from addiction to alcohol or other drugs. The programs give drug-addicted offenders the opportunity to avoid jail or even prison after demonstrating a lengthy period of sobriety, and the ability to stay crime-free and productive.
To support individuals facing addiction, the Wright County Adult Drug Court will bring together justice system and community organizations to deliver treatment for chemical and mental health, as well as other services that foster positive change in the participants’ behavior. The program will also provide strict supervision of the offender, including frequent drug testing and regular mandatory check-in court appearances. The program will stress accountability for participants, and will utilize a range of immediate sanctions and incentives to foster behavior change. The program is designed to handle up to 25 offenders at any time, and completing the program will take between 14 and 24 months.
Plans to establish a drug court in Wright County originated with the county’s district court judges, who saw the positive impact drug courts were having in other communities across the state. Beginning in January, Wright County judges began developing support for a local drug court within the county, eventually developing a core team that included the Wright County Attorney’s Office, the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, the local public defender’s office, a chemical dependency counselor, and a probation agent from Wright County Court Services. Members of this team participated in federal drug court training in Minnesota last March.
In order to secure approval from the Minnesota Judicial Council – the policymaking body of the Minnesota Judicial Branch – the core team needed to prove that the Wright County Adult Drug Court will adhere to state and national best practices for drug court programs. Securing this approval means the program will be eligible for $52,000 in state funding from the Minnesota Drug Court Initiative
. Local leaders have also applied for a federal grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance to support the program.
“A successful drug court depends on strong partnerships throughout the community,” said Judge Davis. “Judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, and probation work together to ensure the defendant remains accountable, while various other community organizations provide the treatment and support the defendant needs to break his or her addiction, stay sober, and find stable employment and housing. Years of research has shown this approach not only produces better outcomes for the offender, but also helps keep the community safe while reducing costs in our justice system.”
Drug Courts: A Proven Model
Once opened, the Wright County Adult Drug Court will be the 56th
drug court program in Minnesota. Many state and national studies have shown the real, positive impact of drug courts: reduced recidivism, lower incarceration costs, and better outcomes for offenders struggling with addiction.
In Minnesota, a 2012 statewide evaluation comparing more than 500 drug court participants to nearly 650 offenders with similar profiles who did not enter a drug court program showed that drug court participants:
- Had lower recidivism rates over two-and-a-half years.
- Spent fewer days incarcerated, saving the state on average $3,200 per participant over two-and-a-half years.
- Showed gains in employment, educational achievement, home rental or ownership, and payment of child support over the run of the program.
In 2014, the Minnesota Judicial Branch released a follow-up to that 2012 evaluation, which tracked the progress of the same drug court participants and similar offenders over an additional year-and-a-half. The new evaluation found that drug court participants – now four years removed from their entry into a drug court program – continued to show significantly lower recidivism rates and reduced incarceration costs.
Learn more about Drug Court Evaluations