After conviction, drug offenders may be sentenced to prison, other correctional facilities, probation or drug court. In sentencing the judges take into consideration information such as prior criminal record, employment, health issues and social history. The judge receives recommendations from the Prosecutor’s Office and Probation Department before his ruling.
Court Administrator and Chief Probation Officer, Greg Thomas said it is up to the judge as to whether Drug Court is offered as an alternative to prison. The purpose of the Drug Court is to break the cycle of addiction. The state encourages the use of drug courts for non-violent offenders. In Morrow County the vast majority of drug offenders are non-violent.
Court Magistrate, Sarah Babich said in the 2015 annual court report that these specialized drug courts “actively address the root issue of many criminal acts and family problems by dealing with substance abuse.”
Drug Courts are Court-based programs that target criminal offenders who have an alcohol or drug addiction and dependency. Morrow County’s Drug Court consists of four dockets: Felony Drug Court, Treatment-In- Lieu Drug Court, Juvenile Drug Court and Family Drug Court. Judge Howard E. Hall oversaw the creation of and presided over the first Drug Court in Morrow County in 2001-2002.
Judge Robert C. Hickson, Jr. currently presides over the Treatment-In-Lieu and Family Drug Courts. Judge Tom C. Elkin presides over the Felony Drug Court. The Juvenile Magistrate presides over the Juvenile Drug Court. All four of these courts are certified by the Ohio Supreme Court and all receive funding through the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Thomas described how each Drug Court has a “team” that meets every two weeks to discuss the progress and status of the Drug Court participants. The team generally includes the Judge or Magistrate, the Probation Officer, the substance abuse counselor, the mental health counselor and if needed the Children Services caseworker.
The Felony Drug Court docket or adult criminal docket is made up of people who have been convicted of felony crimes and who have been placed on probation. The purpose of this docket is to ensure that participants receive needed treatment, remain sober and don’t commit additional crimes.
The Treatment-In-Lieu docket is comprised of individuals who have for the first time committed a crime that was directly related to their drug or alcohol abuse. The purpose of this program is to provide treatment services while they abide by any probation requirements. It is for those who are at risk of further criminal behavior due to alcohol or drug abuse. If the participant completed the program, the original charge is dismissed.
The mission of the Family docket is to provide collaborative evaluation and treatment services for substance abusing parents who have lost or are at risk of losing custody of their children due to abuse, neglect, or dependency. Parents in these intensive services are expected to maintain sobriety and safety, with the goal of reunification with their children.
The Juvenile docket is comprised of youth who have been judged delinquent and who have engaged in drug or alcohol abuse.
There are currently 24 people in the Felony docket, five people in the Treatment-In-Lieu docket, 11 people in the Family docket and nine youth in the Juvenile docket. The number of participants in a Drug Court can change daily, as some participants graduate and some are non-compliant and are removed from the program.
Participants graduate from Drug Court by becoming and remaining clean and sober, attending Drug Court sessions, probation visits and treatment appointments. The need to pay off restitution, court costs and fines and any other stipulations that the judge deems necessary and are court ordered. On average a participant is in Drug Court for 12 months.
If a participant is non-compliant, it can be caused by several things. Most often it is due to drug or alcohol abuse or use. Options for the judge and drug court team include permitting the participant to remain in Drug Court with additional requirements. Community service, additional substance treatment, or going to the local jail, correctional facility or sending the participant to prison may be the result of non-compliance
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