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Joseph K. Reeder: Programs could reduce addiction's impact

Oct. 13, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

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

There are a number of important issues and opportunities which face the court that I look forward to addressing once elected as Putnam County Circuit Judge.

For example, I am interested to see how the newly created Business Court Division, which became operational on Oct. 10, will affect circuit court dockets. Under that new system, complex commercial matters may be transferred to specialized regional courts in order to speed their resolution. Once implemented, the business court system may afford me opportunities, as circuit judge, to greater streamline the manner with which other types of civil matters are dealt and to dispense with them more quickly and efficiently. It may also create opportunities to further improve case management and to devote more time and resources to dealing with criminal cases and child abuse and neglect proceedings, particularly those that result from drug use and addiction.

As an attorney, I have been involved in hundreds of criminal cases and child abuse and neglect proceedings, and I have seen firsthand the effects of drug abuse and addiction on our society and our children. Based upon my experience, I would estimate that 75-80 percent of all criminal and child abuse and neglect matters involve drug addiction in some fashion. Furthermore, a large percentage of those cases involve defendants who have previously been charged or convicted of criminal activity in the past, but who because of their drug dependency continue to engage in such activities or to abuse and neglect their children.

I intend to address these issues. I will expand upon the Juvenile Drug Court which was started by Judge Phillip Stowers by working to create an Adult Drug Court based upon protocols set out by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Such a court will enable us to promote public safety and also increase the likelihood of rehabilitation by offering the accused, either on a pre-adjudicatory or post-adjudicatory basis, the opportunity to seek drug treatment as an alternative to prison. Under the system, participants would be offered integrated drug and alcohol treatment, random mandatory drug testing and supervision, required to participate in job training or community service, all of which would be monitored by a judicial officer. If a participant fails to comply with the program, he or she may be incarcerated. Where properly implemented and supervised, drug courts have been shown to significantly reduce recidivism (repeat offending) and substance abuse and to increase the likelihood of successful rehabilitation of offenders, which reduces jail costs and ensures community safety.

Another solution to the issues of recidivism and drug abuse which I am studying is the concept of a "re-entry" program which is designed to provide intensive supervision, treatment and rehabilitation services to eligible participants in order to reduce the likelihood that such offenders resume their criminal activities once released from prison. There is currently only one such re-entry program in West Virginia. It serves the Northern Panhandle counties and is administered co-operatively by those counties. However, there is a real need for such a program in this area, particularly for younger offenders (18-25).

In addition to adult drug court and the re-entry program, I am currently reviewing a number of other innovative ideas for dealing with these issues. As a parent of two young sons, I am concerned about the future of Putnam County, and it concerns me that drug use, particularly the use of methamphetamine and other "hard" drugs as well as the misuse of prescription drugs, has become so prevalent. It also concerns me that so many children and families are affected by drug addiction and the judicial issues created by such addiction. That is why I take these issues very seriously and, when elected, I intend to work hard every day to provide leadership in solving these complex problems.

Joseph K. Reeder, a resident of Hurricane, is the Republican candidate for circuit judge in Putnam County.

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