Defendants make life-changing choices through local drug court program
WILLMAR -- Local judges and officials are celebrating the first anniversary of the local drug court program and preparing to graduate the first offender from the program later this year.
WILLMAR - Local judges and officials are celebrating the first anniversary of the local drug court program and preparing to graduate the first offender from the program later this year.
Established July 1, 2014, the Eighth Judicial District Drug Court is a specialized court program targeting nonviolent offenders suffering from addiction to alcohol or other drugs, according to a news release from the Minnesota Judicial Branch.
Drug courts closely monitor the defendant’s progress toward sobriety and recovery through ongoing treatment, frequent drug testing and regular mandatory check-in court appearances.
“While our drug court program is still relatively new, we have already seen the life-changing impact this approach is having on the high-risk, repeat drug offenders that come into the program,” Karon White said in a news release. White is the Eighth Judicial District Drug Court Coordinator.
“One participant in our program faced a serious criminal charge and the possibility of losing her children because of her addiction. Today, she’s been sober for almost a year, works full time and is looking forward to her wedding later this year,” White said. “Time and time again, we see drug courts break the cycle of drug abuse and arrest and help those struggling with addiction reclaim their lives.”
The local drug court program involves collaboration between a number of professionals, such as judges, lawyers, probation officers and law enforcement officers serving seven of the 13 western Minnesota counties comprising Minnesota’s Eighth Judicial District: Chippewa, Grant, Kandiyohi, Meeker, Stevens, Swift and Traverse. Program officials hope to add the remaining six counties within the next year.
Those who enter the program must complete four phases before being eligible to apply for graduation. The entire process takes 14 to 24 months.
The first graduations from the program are expected to take place late this year. A total of 15 participants have entered the program, with four of the participants in the third phase of drug court, according to the news release.
A report issued earlier this year by the Minnesota Judicial Branch found that program participants had significantly lower re-arrest rates and spent less time incarcerated than similar offenders who went through traditional court