Jackson County drug court hopes to give people second chance

 
 
Posted1/29/2022 7:00 AM

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A drug treatment court has made its way to Jackson County to help those faced with addiction and criminal charges get their life back, Judge Steven Bost said.

'The beauty of this program is that it's been researched and studied and studied, and it works,' Bost told the Southern Illinoisan. 'For too long we have had people that have gotten sideways with the law. Instead of us going back to what we're doing the last 100-plus years of just sending them off someplace else, we're also owning this problem as a community. We all live here. These are our neighbors. I think that adds an extra layer of accountability for not only the participant but also for the team.'

 

In December, the Illinois Supreme Court approved Jackson County's Drug Treatment Court after they went through extensive training and meetings, Presiding Judge Christy Solverson said.

Jackson County officials held their first meeting going over potential individuals to take part in the program on Jan.13, according to a news release.

Solverson has been interested in starting a drug court in Jackson County since she first joined the office as a judge, Solverson said.

'Drug Treatment Court is a special type of treatment court that will target non-violent offenders with substance use disorders and place them in intensive substance abuse treatment programs, which includes increased drug testing and monitoring and weekly court contact with the drug court judge,' according to a release.

Bost has been selected to be the judge presiding over the program. Having consistent weekly or biweekly meetings with the same judge is an important factor in the successfulness of the program and its precipitants, Solverson said.

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Those accepted into the program will receive mental health and social services, along with other services, throughout their 12-to-24-month drug program.

Through the training and various discussions with other drug courts, Bost has found that many of his preconceptions about such programs have been disproved by research.

'You have to trust the research because what they find is a little counterintuitive,' Bost said. 'In our hearts, we see somebody that's young and vibrant that can go sideways with the wrong crew. We think we can save them and they can get in school and this great movie kind of scenario. But the research shows that those are the people that are the least likely to have any success. The research shows the people that are the most likely to be successful are the folks that are high risk, high need, and are going to be a little bit older. They are going to have previous felony convictions probably.'

In addition research from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals reported in 2018 that adult drug courts result in a 45% reduction of recidivism and 75% of drug court graduates remain arrest-free compared to just 30% of those released from prisons.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Addictions and drugs have been a huge problem across the United States for more than the past 20 years and the Jackson County courts have seen every docket touched by it.

'Judges, probation officers, public defenders, states' attorneys and police officers we all live and work here. This is our community,' Solverson said. 'We see the addiction and the drug use every day firsthand. It's in front of us and we see it in all aspects. We see it in criminal court and misdemeanor court. We see the felony court, we see in juvenile or we see it in juvenile abuse and neglect cases. We also see it in family court; it destroys families. We see it in foreclosure and forcible entry and detainer. People lose their homes due to drug use and addiction. We start to see it even in what we call municipal or city courts.'

The prevalence of drugs and addiction within Jackson County is one of the main reasons many from the States Attorney's Office try to get out and speak at the local schools.

'That's one of the reasons that we try to get out to speak to high school students and speak to communities because for the addiction problem that's where it starts,' Solverson said. 'It starts with just a few joints, it starts with eating the gummies when you're 16 because of the addictive nature of the brain under 23.'

One criticism the team could see the program getting is the idea that drug court is just a pass.

'Drug court is not a pass. It is a process,' Solverson said. 'Our goal is to bring people back so that they are upstanding members of the community and are held accountable. Addiction is hard. It crosses all boundaries. No one is immune from it. Nobody wakes up and says today I'm going to be a drug addict or today I'm going to be addicted to opioids or I'm going to be addicted to methamphetamine. It's a silent thief. We now have the resources and the team members to help these individuals hopefully get their lives back.'

Members of the Jackson County Drug Court team include the Jackson County State's Attorney, Jackson County Public Defender, Jackson County Sheriff's Department, Jackson County Probation, Gateway Foundation, Centerstone and consultant Dr. Jeff Ripperda, an addiction medicine specialist.

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