Saturday, March 19, 2005

Drug courts = solution to meth epidemic in the Piney Woods

Ann has posted a great advocacy fact sheet supporting workable solutions to the meth epidemic and opposing counterproductive new prison sentences for low-level possession, as proposed in several pieces of Texas legislation this spring.

Perhaps most interesting was this quote from Angelina County District Judge Paul White. (Lufkin is the largest town and county seat of Angelina County in East Texas.) Ann transcribed parts of his testimony from a House Corrections Committee hearing last month:
“It troubles me greatly ... the Piney Woods [is] the Meth Capitol of this great state. And that is the truth. I’m dealing with it. . . . Four months ago we began our drug court after great research. . . . I firmly believe that we will be able to avoid at least 40 offenders going to the penitentiary every year. That’s a minimum, out of Angelina County. If you want to put a pencil to this or do the math on it . . . . For our community, we show a net savings of $500,000.00 if we are successful with those 40 offenders. . . . If we could get the resources for all 450 Districts in Texas, look at the savings! Half a million dollars just for forty - look at your savings. . . . What I’m here to tell you is that this works in count"ies, not just of over 550,000. It works in Lufkin, Angelina County. . . . It’s changing lives.".
There's a judge using his noggin; I'll take nine more like him to replace these guys, please. White goes on to describe the accountability measures that make his drug court more successful than prior judicial efforts in Angelina County. Since I've written quite a bit supporting drug courts, I thought I'd post a few more excerpts to give readers an idea of what they do that's different from more routine jurisprudence:
“We have a high degree of accountability. Number one - drug tests - they are tested weekly and if they fail the test we have immediate consequence. In my court, generally it’s a weekend in jail. To be in drug court and remain in drug court you must be employed, and so we monitor that. We have great assistance from our Workforce Commission about workshops and the like. If you are not employed by a certain deadline then you are going to be employed doing community service. It doesn’t take long to figure out you’d rather be being paid for that rather than doing it for free. Now the exception to employment would be if we have those young ones who need to be doing work on their adult education and GED or high school education as the case may be. Generally we have both.

"We mandate who they live with and where they live. I had a gentleman who first reported and neglected to tell me he was living with his wife, which seemed a bit strange when I discovered it. It turned out that she was an absconder and warrants were out for her. So he had to make a choice: move, she turn herself in, or be out of the program. She turned herself in. We’ve had an impact for good with the family.

"We deal with health issues. If your excuse for not working is a health issue, we deal with that. And then we get back to the employment. So those are all of the components. There are at least eight of them that we deal with every week to monitor. And amazingly, the attention they get, they respond to it favorably – even when its a sanction. They understand its coming and they have dealt with it appropriately thus far."
For more background on drug courts see Doc Berman's fine post on the topic from November.


Anonymous said...

Dear Scott,
Thank you for your posting of Judge White's testimony before the House Committee last spring. I work as Judge White's Drug Court Coordinator, and was with him during the visit to Austin. You are right, Judge White "uses his noggin." He's an incredibly innovative, brilliant man who would rather do good in his community, than just call "balls and strikes" from the Bench. Drug Courts are a lot of trouble, but they produce good results compared to the revolving door of Texas prisons. If you have any questions regarding Drug Courts, let me know. I am graduating from South Texas College of Law this May, and am writing my research thesis on Drug Courts.
Georgia Kimmey

Anonymous said...

Don't overlook the great drug court in Bowie County.

I was a prosecutor when the County Court at Law began a similar drug program in 2004.

It worked great and helped change behavior instead of just warehousing drug addicts.

Judge Jeff Addison spearheaded the effort and started the program from the ground up. When I moved to Dallas I wondered why everyone didn't do this.

Without a drug court your options as a prosecutor/probation officer are
1) Admonish (Quit doing drugs or I'll revoke you)
2) Revoke probation and throw the defendnat in jail

Drug courts expands these options and cuts down on revocations.

buy viagra said...

It is a great effort for preventing the meth abuse, a friend of mine did enter that bizarre world of meth and it is hard to watch him.