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Can Drug Court Help Drug Offenders?

A large percentage of inmates enter a jail or prison addicted to drugs. When they’re released back into society, they become our neighbors, our co-workers, and the people we chat with at children’s sporting events.

When addicts are released, many of them return to drug abuse and in order to fund their drug addictions, to a life of crime. They’ll sell drugs for quick cash, rob convenient stores, rob people at gunpoint, burglarize homes and automobiles, and engage in prostitution – all to fuel their drug habit.

Prison’s Revolving Door

When prisoners are released, go back to a life of crime, are re-arrested, convicted and incarcerated again, they are a part of what’s called the “revolving door” of prison. According to the Arizona Department of Corrections, many prisoners are enrolling in a substance abuse program, which is available to inmates who are near the end of their sentence. It’s been described as an “intense treatment program” and it’s working.

Many prisoners will admit that drugs are the reason for most of their criminal behaviors. They’ll spend hundreds a month to support their drug habit, and sometimes they’ll do almost anything, including commit crimes, to get their hands on the money to buy drugs.

"We have 75 percent of our folks coming in the door assessed as needing substance abuse treatment," said Karen Hellman, the administrator of Counseling and Treatment Services at the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Dr. Christobal Eblin, the senior substance abuse counselor for the Department of Corrections said this was his “calling in life,” referring to the program. He also believes it’s a good use of taxpayer dollars, since crime is costlier for the community.

Maricopa County Drug Court

Locally, offenders take advantage of the Maricopa County Adult Drug Court. According to the Judicial Branch of Arizona participants are “required to attend support group meetings, in addition to the group counseling sessions. Drug Court clients participate in Healthcare Literacy classes in an effort to encourage healthcare enrollment and/or utilization of treatment services, including medically assisted treatment (MAT).”

“Drug Court probationers can earn early termination and misdemeanor designation (if applicable) in as little as one year,” according to the Judicial Branch.

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