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Drug court is effective way to fight addiction

Oct. 06, 2012 @ 01:08 AM

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one of a series of columns written by candidates in contested races in the Nov. 6 general election.

As circuit judge of Putnam County, I have seen first-hand how drug abuse, and the resulting petty crime to support addiction, costs our taxpayers, our communities and our families. I have also seen the lack of options given the courts to combat this issue. Currently, our choices are primarily probation (which more likely than not results in some violation and thus leads to incarceration) or incarceration, neither of which treats the underlying addiction and returns the offender to our neighborhoods, untreated, after his sentence is discharged. To combat this blight upon our community, I will work toward the establishment of an adult drug court in Putnam County upon election in November.

Drug addiction and abuse is a problem that knows no social, economical or professional bounds. Drug addiction affects teachers, lawyers, health care workers and people from all walks of life and in all age brackets. Recognizing that there was a substantial drug addiction and drug use problem among juveniles, the Circuit Court of Putnam County has already established an effective juvenile drug court to combat this problem in children under the age of 18. However, there is no corresponding program for those in their adulthood, notwithstanding the same degree of need.

Under West Virginia law, a specialty drug court applies 10 key components to the offender's correction, supervision and treatment. They include early, intense and continuous substance abuse treatment; abstinence monitoring with frequent and random testing; appropriate incentives and sanctions to alter offender behavior; and close judicial supervision. An offender with a drug problem can be diverted from criminal court to drug court prior to trial or sentenced there afterward. Drug court is a real and effective way to change the behavior and control the addiction which led to the criminal behavior. More importantly, it is a real and effective way to break the cycle and prevent further criminal activity among those who successfully complete the program.

It is also important to note what drug court is not. It is not an easy way out of a criminal charge. The program often takes months and requires strict adherence to a program of treatment and immediate accountability for non-compliance. Most importantly, if an offender is a danger to society, they will not be permitted to participate. Violent offenders are barred from consideration.

By curbing or even stopping recidivism, an adult drug court would result in a substantial savings for taxpayers through decreased jail costs. It would also decrease risk to our families and prevent a multitude of crimes such as theft and burglaries in that the addiction which often fuels these crimes is no longer controlling the offender's thought processes. In other words, it strikes a blow directly to the root cause of the main problem which faces our communities. For these reasons, I look forward to establishing an adult drug court in Putnam County upon my election as your circuit judge.

J. Robert Leslie, a resident of Hurricane, is the Democratic candidate for circuit judge in Putnam County.

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