National Drug Court Month ended in May, and the celebration had added significance this year for those of us associated with the You-Turn Recovery Docket.
That’s because our specialized docket, designed for those addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, will hold its first graduation ceremony Friday, July 29, at the Wilmington Presbyterian Church.
On track to graduate is David Key, the first individual admitted to the docket shortly after it was certified by the Ohio Supreme Court in November 2014.
The ceremony, which is open to the public, will mark David’s completion of an intense program of comprehensive substance abuse treatment, close supervision and full accountability.
The event will also celebrate and recognize the progress of the other 19 active participants in the docket. Several of them are on track to graduate in the next six months to a year from a program which typically lasts a minimum of 18 months but can run longer or shorter depending on an individual’s commitment to succeeding.
You-Turn Recovery Docket participants are supervised by me as the head of a treatment team which also includes court supervision officers and area alcohol and drug treatment providers. Our team typically meets on the first and third Fridays of each month before status review hearings for the entire class of participants that are held in the Clinton County Common Pleas Courtroom and are open to the public at 1:30 p.m.
Many people from the community regularly attend the status review hearings to lend support to the participants, including those from local churches and others battling addiction who want to share their stories and offer encouragement.
Studies of these types of dockets, first instituted more than a quarter century ago, indicate that they reduce correctional costs, enhance community safety and improve public welfare. Seriously addicted individuals remain in treatment for longer periods of time while under close supervision. Participants must meet obligations to themselves, their families and society.
To ensure accountability, they are regularly and randomly tested for substance use, required to appear frequently in court to review their progress, rewarded for meeting goals, and sanctioned for not meeting clearly stated obligations.
Research continues to show that treatment courts work better than jail or prison, better than probation, and better than treatment alone. To drive home that point locally, I have invited a national leader in prison reform, Gary Mohr, the director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, to be our keynote speaker for the graduation ceremony.
Treatment courts are now considered the foundation of criminal justice reform and the most effective strategy to reduce substance abuse, crime and recidivism while saving money for taxpayers.
More research has been published on the effects of drug courts than virtually all other criminal justice programs combined. In 2012, the US Government Accountability Office submitted a report to Congress confirming drug courts reduce substance abuse and crime and save money. Nationally, drug courts return to the community up to $27 for every $1 invested. Drug courts reduce crime by up to 50 percent and the longest study to date shows reductions lasted an astounding 14 years.
Moreover, studies show that the more serious an individual’s drug addiction and the longer his or her criminal record, the better treatment courts work. This approach not only diverts individuals from a life of substance abuse and crime, but has been proven to reduce use of prison beds, emergency room admissions, family conflicts associated with domestic violence and child abuse, and foster care placements.
Without the innovative, evidence-based treatment these programs provide, more than 1.4 million Americans would not be living in recovery from addiction. Rather than continue to allow individuals with long histories of drug abuse and crime to cycle through the criminal justice system at great expense to the public, we use the leverage of the court to keep them engaged in treatment long enough to be successful
Today, drug courts and other treatment courts have proven that a combination of accountability and compassion cannot only save lives, but save valuable resources and reduce exorbitant criminal justice costs.
But drug courts are not for everybody and they have not worked for several who were admitted to our program but could not be honest with the court about their behavior or honest with themselves about what they need to do to turn their lives around—to make a you-turn. In many cases, these individuals are back behind bars with limited access to programs that can help them beat their addiction.
Successful participants realize that they are in for a life-long battle with addiction but our soon-to-be graduates realize that they are about to realize one important victory in that fight of a lifetime.
Even though they will exit the program, we are working with professionals in the local addiction community on projects and programs that will help build on their success and keep them connected with the program, possibly even as mentors to future participants.
Anyone interested in offering programs or employment for drug docket participants or with ideas about how to confront the heroin epidemic are encouraged to contact me.
For more information on the docket, go to www.you-turn-drug-docket.org, follow it on Facebook at You-Turn Recovery Docket and like it on Twitter at You-Turn@UturnDrugDocket.
John W. “Tim” Rudduck is Judge of the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas.