September 7, 2006
JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced that the U.S. Department of Justice has awarded a $100,000 grant to Will County Drug Court that will provide critical treatment funding for recovering addicts who participate in the program.
In a separate development, the Department of Justice has chosen Will County Drug Court as one of only 10 of the nearly 1,600 drug courts in operation across the nation to participate in a pilot program called “eCourt.” The pilot program is designed to enhance the monitoring and evaluation of drug courts nationwide.
Will County Drug Court is an intensive program designed to integrate drug abusers who have committed non-violent offenses back into the community by helping them break their addictions. Last month, Drug Court marked a significant milestone when its 150th participant graduated from the program.
“The federal grant that I applied for and received will fund necessary treatment and counseling services over the next two years to help non-violent offenders kick the addictions that drove them to commit their crimes in the first place,” Glasgow said. “Everyone benefits when addicts who had previously been a financial burden on society rebound and are able to hold down jobs, pursue educations, own homes, raise families and pay taxes. They become productive, law abiding citizens once the addiction demon is banished from their lives.”
The state’s attorney also noted that the Department of Justice’s decision to include Will County Drug Court in the piloting of the eCourt monitoring system testifies to the success and effective coordination of the local program.
The goal of eCourt is to develop a computer-based monitoring system to generate timely and cost-effective data that can be used to evaluate drug court programs across the nation. The Department of Justice will provide the training and technology necessary to implement eCourt locally.
“Only .06 per cent of the drug courts were selected for the prestigious honor of participating in this most critical monitoring initiative,” Glasgow said. “I can’t imagine a better validation of the incredible success that the Will County Drug Court Program has achieved.”
Circuit Judge Carla Alessio Policandriotes, who presides over Will County Drug Court, said the eCourt system will provide staff with crucial information to help them monitor a rapidly expanding program.
“This pilot program will help us maximize opportunities for communication and enable us to better track our progress so that we can serve the long-term needs of our participants,” the judge said. “The federal grant will allow us to expand our treatment and counseling services for participants. In addition, the grant solidifies the credibility of our Drug Court by showing the community that we are backed by significant federal funding.”
Glasgow believes the eCourt monitoring system will further confirm the human success stories and the cost-effectiveness of drug court programs.
“A recent study showed that Illinois incarcerates more people for drug offenses than any other state but California,” he said. “These statistics can be attributed in large part to tougher laws that have enabled police to fight the drug dealers who pump poison into our communities. But we must supplement aggressive law enforcement with programs that can help non-violent addicts step out of the revolving door that has been cycling them through the state’s prison system.”
Seventeen years ago the first drug court opened in Miami-Dade County, Florida. In the following 10 years, 461 additional drug courts came on line throughout the country. By 2006, the number had skyrocketed to nearly 1,600, with an additional 438 in the planning stages.
“This is a testament to the incredible benefit they provide, not only to addicts, but to this great country as a whole, Glasgow said. “Government officials across this land are finally recognizing the long-term benefits of funding effective prevention programs in our criminal justice system. For every dollar we spend on crime prevention, we save $10 to $20 in remedial costs. When it comes to giving the taxpayers the most bang for their buck, funding a drug court program is a no-brainer.”
It costs roughly $3,000 to put a person through Will County Drug Court. By contrast, it costs taxpayers $33,000 annually for each prisoner housed at the Will County Adult Detention Facility and more than $23,000 for those housed in a state prison.
The state’s attorney has had tremendous success working with the Department of Justice to secure funding for Drug Court as well as other programs.
Last week, the department’s Office on Violence Against Women awarded Will County a $750,000 grant to combat domestic violence with an emphasis on prosecuting abusers who violate orders of protection. Glasgow wrote the successful grant application. Will County Executive Larry Walsh filed the application on the state’s attorney’s behalf.
Glasgow spearheaded the creation of the local Drug Court in 1997 by writing a successful $30,000 planning grant application that was awarded by the Department of Justice. A year later, the state’s attorney applied for and received a second $500,000 Department of Justice grant to start the program.
Will County Drug Court has grown from 12 clients in 2000 to more than 50 at any given time.
In Drug Court, prosecutors and defense attorneys work with the judge and treatment providers to help abusers kick their addictions. It is a cost-effective alternative to dumping non-violent drug offenders into state prisons and allowing them to rotate through the system at recidivism rates as high as 70 percent.
Ninety-two percent of those who have graduated from Will County Drug Court have gone on to lead productive, drug-free lives. Only 8 percent of those who have graduated have committed new criminal offenses over the past six years.
Participation in Drug Court is an intensive process. Defendants allowed into the program are carefully screened. They must remain drug free, submit to random drug tests, find employment, follow through with treatment and attend weekly Drug Court sessions if they are to graduate.
Most of the defendants are eligible for probation if they remain in the traditional court system. However, they take a tremendous risk when they opt for Drug Court because failure means prison. In select cases, graduates could see their criminal charges dismissed, enabling them to avoid the lifetime stigma of having a felony conviction.
Charles B. Pelkie
(815) 530-7110 (cellular)
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