The drug court movement began with the changing of a few minds at the grassroots level. People began to realize the existing approach to the drug using criminal — incarceration and more incarceration — wasn’t working.
The number of accused drug offenders kept increasing and there were simply not enough jails and prisons to hold them. On the other hand, drug courts provide these same offenders a structured program of treatment, counseling, mandatory drug testing, judicial monitoring, immediate sanctions and incentives and overall support from the court team to help offenders re-enter into the community healthy productive citizens.
Since its inception in 1994, the drug court movement has grown from the 12 original drug courts to more than 1200 drug courts that are in operation or in the planning stages throughout the country. The reason for their unprecedented growth is that they have proven that they can reduce the rate of recidivism and are by far the most effective tool in protecting society from the ravages of drug abuse.
For two years, the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office participated in a $30,000 planning grant, through the United States Department of Justice, to establish a Drug Court Program in Will County. The drug court team researched the increase of criminal behavior as it relates to drug use, and studied existing programs to develop a local project.
Under the direction of the Will County State’s Attorney, the Will County Drug Court convened in the spring of 2000 through a $50,000 grant from the State of Illinois and a $500,000 comprehensive grant awarded from the United States Department of Justice. It is only through the generous support of the Will County Board that the Drug Court continues to operate and flourish. Will County Drug Court has grown from the original 12 clients to more than fifty at any given time. Over three hundred clients have successfully graduated from the program. Judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes is the presiding judge over the program.
Drugs & Crime
It is clear that there is an increase of criminal behavior as it relates to drug use, and an increase in drug related cases in Will County, Illinois. Drug related offenses are the most common crimes in our community. Drug involved offenders also commit crimes of theft, forgery, prostitution, burglary and a host of others to feed their addiction.
The criminal justice system has the unique ability to influence a person shortly after a significant triggering event such as an arrest. Statistics show that by offering the offender counseling, drug treatment, career guidance, support and close supervision recidivism rates drop drastically.
It costs approximately $3,000 to put a person through drug court. Taxpayers pay about $92 a day for each inmate at the Will County Adult Detention Facility. It costs $23,000 to imprison that same person for one year. For every dollar invested in drug court, ten dollars are saved by corrections. Additionally, when the imprisoned person returns to the streets, they are forever marked. It is difficult to obtain a job and likely they will return to drugs and criminal activity to feed their drug habit. The result is a revolving door syndrome in which offenders cycle in and out of the system. Recidivism rates are between 50% - 70%.
On the other hand, the person who finishes drug court is given a chance to return to society as a productive citizen, with increased educational and job opportunities. Instead of becoming a drain on society, the successful participant becomes a contributor. Not only do offenders benefit, but public safety is strengthened through the accountability and monitoring that occurs. The recidivism rate for Will County Drug Court graduates is 7%.
The mission of the Drug Court movement is to break the cycle of addiction, which drives the criminal behavior of non-violent drug users, and integrate the offenders back into society as tax paying, productive members of the community.
Who is Eligible?
Drug Court targets substance abusers involved in criminal behavior driven by their drug use. Clients are generally charged with felony or misdemeanor charges of a non-violent nature and have a history of fewer than three felony convictions over the past ten years. Clients must be a resident of Will County and have no pending DUI charges. The applicant must admit to having a drug or alcohol problem and be willing to accept treatment recommendations of the drug court team and have no convictions for violent crimes in the past ten years.
Referred participants are carefully screened to determine eligibility with a background check. They are afforded the opportunity to preview the program by attending pre-contract classes before court for several weeks before signing their drug court contract.
Observation & Assessment
After defendants referred to the program are screened to determine eligibility, the Drug Court team performs a comprehensive assessment. A treatment service plan is then reviewed by the team. During this process the defendant attends education and informational classes on a weekly basis.
Phase 1: Treatment
The defendant enters into a written contract that is both a plea of guilty and a waiver of constitutional and statutory rights. The duration of the program specified in the contract is 12—18 months. They are then referred to an appropriate level of treatment and the type of treatment for each defendant is based on that individuals needs.Drug court client must make weekly appearances in court unless they are in inpatient treatment.
Phase II: Continuing Care
During the continuing care phase of the program, the participant makes biweekly court appearances, submits to random urine drops, reports to probation and continues with the recommended treatment plan. The judge becomes the central figure in a team effort focusing on sobriety and accountability as primary goals.
Phase III: After Care
This phase includes fewer court appearances; once every three weeks. However, outside meetings are increased in frequency. Participants are called upon to lead the pre-contract meetings and act as role models to newcomers in the program. They are encouraged to take more control of their own recovery. Random urinalysis and reporting to probation continue.
Graduations occur semi-annually as the culmination of the formal part of the program. At that time felony charges are stricken with leave to reinstate. This allows for those felony charges to then be removed from the record. Graduates are highly encouraged to attend follow up court appearances and classes as alumni members to provide additional support. Over 300 graduates have successfully completed Drug Court.
The Will County Drug Court is committed to helping those individuals who have a substance abuse problem and restoring them to be productive and law abiding citizens, and the representatives from the following agencies are dedicated to making this program a 100% success in Will County:
For more information regarding the Will County Drug Court, call Julie McCabe-Sterr, Drug Court Coordinator at (815) 727-8453 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org