Morrison County Drug Court to open this week

The Morrison County Drug Court will hold its first session Wednesday, July 2, marking the beginning of a new program that will provide supervision and treatment of chemically-dependent adults in Morrison County who have been charged with non-violent, drug-related offenses.

Drug courts are specialized, problem-solving court programs that target non-violent criminal offenders who suffer from addiction to alcohol or other drugs. These proven and cost-effective programs involve close collaboration between judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, treatment providers, probation officers, law enforcement, educational and vocational experts, and community leaders. Offenders that enter the Morrison County Drug Court program will be:

• Provided with intensive treatment and other services they require to get clean and sober;

• Held accountable by the drug court judge for meeting their obligations to court and society;

• Regularly and randomly tested for drugs;

• Required to appear in court frequently so that the judge may review their progress; and

• Rewarded for doing well or sanctioned when they fail to meet their obligations.

“Our goal is to help defendants successfully address their addiction to drugs so that they can live a healthier and happier life and so that the community will be a safer, better place to live,” said Seventh Judicial District Judge Conrad Freeberg. “It has been shown time and again that appropriate treatment followed by close monitoring and strict accountability is the best and most cost-effective way to accomplish this.”

The use of Drug Courts in Minnesota began in Hennepin County in 1997. The Morrison County Drug Court is one of six new drug court programs starting this summer in Minnesota, which will bring the total number of drug courts in the state to 44. Those 44 programs will eventually serve 56 of the state’s 87 counties.

A 2012 statewide evaluation that compared over 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 – 17 percent versus 32 percent reconviction rate;

• Spent fewer days incarcerated, saving the state on average $3,200 per participant over two-and-a-half years; and

• Showed gains in employment, educational achievement, home rental or ownership, and payment of child support over the run of the program.

Nationwide, for every dollar invested in drug court programs, studies have shown taxpayers save as much as $3.36 in avoided criminal justice costs alone. When considering other cost offsets such as savings from reduced victimization and healthcare service utilization, studies have shown benefits range up to $27 for every $1 invested.

The mission of the Morrison County Drug Court is to protect public safety, rebuild and reclaim participants’ lives, restore and strengthen families and communities, and promote and encourage responsibility, accountability, and personal growth through a program of evidence-based practices, treatment, and accountability monitored by a multi-disciplinary team.

The Morrison County Drug Court program has five phases a participant must complete in order to graduate, each with a specific set of goals a participant needs to complete. Examples of goals or tasks that participants may need to accomplish during the course of Drug Court include:

•  Completion of a treatment program;

• Remaining sober;

• Attending school;

• Finding employment;

• Attending appropriate counseling;

• Abiding by curfew;

• Submitting to drug testing;

• Securing stable and sober housing; and

• Engaging in the community in a pro-social way including completion of 40 hours of volunteer service work.

It will take a Drug Court participant a minimum of 14 months to complete the entire program.