Editorial: Drug court earns its keep


Published Jun 16, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

If you want a criminal justice success story in Deschutes County, look no further than the Deschutes County Circuit Court’s Family Drug Court. It’s the kind of story that should make it easy for county commissioners to approve the program’s grant application for roughly $250,000.

The court serves people whose drug problems have not only gotten them into trouble with the law but have jeopardized the family’s stability, as well. Some participants already have lost custody of their children when they begin their stints, 18 months on average, with the court; others are at risk for doing so.

While just under half of those accepted to Family Drug Court fail to complete the program, those who do beat the statistical odds in a variety of ways.

The court’s recidivism rate is low by almost any measure. Only 7 percent of the court’s graduates have re-offended within a year, compared with a 16 percent recidivism rate among drug courts nationwide. Meanwhile, about 46 percent of those who are convicted of drug-related crimes in the county but who do not attend drug court re-offend in the same period.

Too, 95 percent of drug court graduates regain custody of their children, while 84 percent are currently working. Those two numbers add up to more stable homes for kids and fewer problems down the road for children and adults alike.

The court’s success rate is the result of many things. It screens its applicants carefully. It offers both inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment to participants, and it lines up the expertise and services of a broad range of professionals to help its clients get back on track. Nor does that support simply disappear upon graduation.

The money the court seeks from the County Commission covers the cost of staffing and for the treatment its clients need. Other money comes from private donations, and in-kind services, but without that chunk from the county, it’s difficult to see how the court could continue.

County commissioners can take pride in their support for the Family Drug Court. More important, they should continue that support going ahead, and award the court the grant money it seeks.