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Drug court offers alternative to prison

Prison is not the only penalty available for certain criminal offenses. Many counties and cities offer a variety of services including drug courts, mental health courts, supervised release and other alternative options. One certain county in Illinois, McLean, started their drug court in 2006. The point of a Drug Court is to address the underlying problems that bring people to commit crimes. The idea is to cut the recidivism rate, to get them back into society.

Currently, Illinois has 25 mental health and 62 drug courts. These courts take only the most high-need clients, generally non-violent and repeat drug offenders with a history of mental illness. By working through their classes and programs, these clients learn how to manage their addiction and mental health matters. The McLean Drug Court is funded with a combination of federal, state and local resources. A recent federal grant will be used to expand the court over a three-year period.

This particular court holds a success rate of 43 percent among 182 participants. "Success" for these programs is on a spectrum. Sometimes clients will re-offend but control their addiction. The real battle is ensuring that these clients gain the ability to reintegrate into society. Success for each person is individualized and depends upon their specific needs. Additionally, it is estimated it costs about $1,000 for two years to manage probationers through this court versus $38,268 a year to send the same offender to prison.

Drug courts, like this one, are alternatives to avoid going to jail. If you are subject to criminal charges or arrest, then you may want to consult with a criminal defense attorney. A drug court may be available to you to avoid prison time.

Source: Pantagraph, "Problem-Solvers: Court programs address drug, mental health issues," Edith Brady-Lunny, Dec. 20, 2015

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