Will County Drug Court to mark milestone; program to graduate 150th participant this week
JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced that 21 people who originally faced criminal charges stemming from drug abuse have kicked their addictions and will graduate from the Will County Drug Court Program this week.
A graduation ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3 in the Board Room at the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet.
This ceremony will mark the 150th person to graduate from Will County Drug Court since its inception in 2000. Of those who have entered the intensive program over the past six years, 71 percent have graduated. The retention rate is on the high end of national averages, which range from 67 to 71 percent.
Ninety-two percent of those who have graduated 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.
“We’re proud this program has taken 150 non-violent offenders off Will County’s streets, given them a new lease on life and helped them to become productive citizens,” Glasgow said.
The program’s goal is to help drug abusers who have committed non-violent offenses break their addictions and integrate them back into society as productive, tax-paying community members.
“The old adage, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ has never rung more true,” Glasgow said “Every dollar we spend on crime prevention saves us $10-$20 in remedial costs. By breaking the addictions that drive their criminal behavior, we create individuals who can become real assets to society by holding jobs, furthering their educations, owning homes, raising families and paying taxes.”
This week’s ceremony marks the first graduation for Circuit Judge Carla Alessio Goode, who took over as the presiding judge in Drug Court earlier this year from Chief Judge Stephen White. White had presided over Drug Court since its formation in 2000. The state’s attorney praised the work of both judges.
“Judge White took a tough, no-nonsense approach that enabled us to build a successful program that offenders have taken seriously,” Glasgow said. “They knew if they used drugs or engaged in other criminal activity, the judge would send them to prison. And Judge Goode already has proven willing to use the hammer to keep drug court defendants on the straight-and-narrow.”
Glasgow spearheaded the development of the Will County Drug Court Program in 1997 by writing a successful $30,000 planning grant application that was awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice. For two years, the state’s attorney, the chief judge and other court and law enforcement officials researched criminal behavior related to drug abuse and studied existing programs.
Their planning efforts culminated with Glasgow submitting a $500,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant application that was fully funded. An additional $50,000 was obtained from the State of Illinois. The Drug Court continues to flourish with some funding provided by the County of Will.
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 cycle in and out of the system at recidivism rates as high as 70 percent.
Glasgow stressed that participation in 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.
“Most of the defendants are eligible for probation if they remain in the traditional court system,” Glasgow said. “They take a tremendous risk when they opt for Drug Court because failure means prison. This speaks volumes about their commitment to banishing the demons of drug addiction that have derailed their lives. In some cases, graduation can result in a dismissal of the criminal charge, enabling them to avoid the debilitating lifetime stigma of being a convicted felon.”
The amount it costs to operate the Will County Drug Court Program 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 and the documented risk of recidivism.
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 prison.
“The real value of this program should be viewed in light of the $60 million dollar burden on local taxpayers brought about by the need to expand the Will County Jail,” Glasgow said.
For more information on Drug Court, go to https://willcountysao.com and click on Crime Prevention.