February 21, 2007
JOLIET – Fourteen people who had been facing criminal charges stemming from their drug abuse have kicked their addictions and will graduate from the Will County Drug Court Program during a ceremony scheduled for 1 p.m. March 1 at the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St.
The goal of the Will County Drug Court Program is to help abusers who have committed non-violent offenses break their addictions and integrate them back into society as productive, tax-paying community members. More than 150 people have successfully completed the program since its inception in 2000.
Drug Court graduation ceremonies are often emotional events. Circuit Judge Carla Alessio Policandriotes, who presides over Drug Court, will introduce graduates individually and discuss how the program helped them clean up their lives.
“Drug Court graduations are touching experiences for everyone who attends,” Policandriotes said. “Our graduates completed a tough program that required hard work to turn things around. By the time they receive their graduation plaques, they already will have proven they can remain drug-free, complete their education and hold down a job. The graduation ceremony validates their commitment to changing their lives.”
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, who spearheaded the development of the local Drug Court Program in the late 1990s, agreed.
“By breaking the addictions that drove their criminal behavior, we are helping participants rejoin the community as productive citizens who hold jobs, further their educations, own homes, raise families and pay taxes,” Glasgow said.
In 1997, Glasgow wrote a $30,000 planning grant application that was awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice. Planning efforts culminated two years later with the awarding of a $500,000 start-up grant from the Department of Justice as well as a $50,000 state grant.
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, where they cycle in and out of 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 graduated have committed new criminal offenses over the past seven years.
The cost of operating the Will County Drug Court is a fraction of what it would cost taxpayers to arrest, prosecute and house these non-violent offenders in state prisons plus deal with the social costs stemming from their inability to find employment.
It costs roughly $3,000 to put a person through Drug Court. By contrast, it costs taxpayers annually more than $33,000 for each prisoner housed at the Will County Adult Detention Facility and more than $23,000 for those housed in state prisons.
Drug Court is a tough and 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.
For more information on Drug Court, go to http://www.willcountysao.com and click on Crime Prevention.
Charles B. Pelkie
(815) 530-7110 (cellular)
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