County Continues To Investigate Specialty Courts

From Potter County Today

crimjusticePotter County officials continue to investigate two alternatives – drug courts and mental health courts – as possible options to improve the criminal justice system while easing overcrowding at the county jail and reducing costs. As complex as each option is, officials caution, it will be some time before any changes are recommended. Several members of the county’s Criminal Justice Advisory Board are involved. A visit to a downstate county that has implemented specialty courts will be scheduled later this year.

Because a large proportion of criminal defendants coming before the court are suffering from mental health issues, substance abuse histories, or both, there’s a growing awareness that punishment that failure to address those factors frequently results in costly recidivism.

Drug Courts handle the cases of nonviolent, substance-abusing offenders. The judiciary, prosecution, defense, probation, law enforcement, mental health, social service and treatment communities work together. The model combines intensive judicial supervision, mandatory drug testing, escalating sanctions and treatment to help substance-abusing offenders break the cycle of addiction and the crime that accompanies it. There are more than 2,400 drug courts established in all 50 states. The average recidivism rate for those who complete drug court is about 20 percent, in contrast to 48 percent for those who do not.

Mental Health Courts link non-violent offenders who would ordinarily be prison-bound to long-term, community-based treatment. They rely on mental health assessments, individualized treatment plans, and ongoing judicial monitoring to address the underlying problems that contribute to criminal behavior. For those who adhere to their treatment plan for the agreed-upon time, usually between six months and two years, their cases are either dismissed or the sentence is greatly reduced. If the defendant does not comply, the case returns to the original criminal calendar.

Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.

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