The Summit County Drug Court was established in 2011 to allow non-violent felony drug offenders who meet certain criteria an opportunity to avoid lengthy incarceration by voluntarily participating in a program that provides structured regular drug testing and monitoring of the offender for compliance with firm conditions.
Recently BYU students did a review of program in an attempt to answer two questions:
- Does the existence of the drug court reduce the number of inmates in the County Jail Facility thus helping the facility remain viable long term by delaying the need to expand or build a new facility
- Is the drug court effective in reducing the number of drug offenders who are repeat offenders
So, how does a typical drug court work? Generally certain felony drug offenders are offered the ability to plead guilty to drug charges in exchange for being put into the program. As part of the program, offenders are usually tested three times per week for drugs and/or alcohol. The cost of testing is paid by the offender. Additional measures are included such as performing community service, attending regular meetings, and writing a report.
The program lasts a minimum of 24 months. If the offender successfully graduates, then they may have their criminal charges reduced.
So far, 7 of 18 participants have graduated. There are currently 11 participants in the drug court. The annual cost of the drug court is $20,000 (does not include wages of officials presiding over court). If these 11 participants were jail, at an estimated cost of $30,000 per inmate per year, it would cost the county $330,000 annually. Therefore, it appears it is a financially successful program.
Nationwide, there are many proponents of drug courts. They cite statistics such as 75% of drug court graduates remain arrest-free after 2 years and reduce crime by as much as 45% over other sentencing options. However, there are also those that cite that drug courts cause individuals to lose rights and discriminate against those who cannot afford to pay for drug tests.
It will be interesting to watch if Summit County invests more heavily and expands the program. So far, with its limited reach and limited budget it seems to be providing benefits to our community.
To read more about Summit County’s Drug Court, click here.