Drug court not coming soon

Staff writer

Courts specializing in drug-related cases are often lauded for helping addicts get on, and stay on, a straight path,

However, it’s not likely Marion County offenders will benefit from a drug court anytime soon.

District judge Michael Powers said the one drug court in the four-county Eighth Judicial District meets in Geary County.

Marion County District Court has a high number of cases that stem from drug or alcohol addiction, Powers said. However, the criteria set by the judicial district for which cases qualify for drug court is hard to meet.

“It hasn’t been successful as far as the number of people who would qualify for drug court,” Powers said. “Our standards have been too rigid.”

Setting up a drug court in Marion County would mean pulling together many different county resources, Powers said.

Drug court involves the judge, probation officers, counselors, and the person with drug issues. The judge, probation officers and counselors meet beforehand to discuss the matters at hand.

“To pull all these resources together, you’d have to have a lot of cases together,” Powers said.

Then there’s the matter of funding to support drug court.

“Absent some pretty significant changes in funding, I don’t see it happening in Marion County District Court,” Powers said.

When someone is assigned to go to drug court, the assignment is made after a conviction, as a condition of probation, Powers said.

Judge Keith Collett, who has overseen drug court in Geary County for about three years, said he’s a believer in the benefit of drug court. The program ordinarily takes about 14 months to complete.

Right now Geary County is overhauling the process, retooling and retraining, Collett said.

Applications were put on hold in October 5015 and people already in the program were graduated by May. The refitted program is expected to be up and running again early next year.

“In general there has not been a judicial practice so studied as drug court,” Collett said.

Those studies have shown drug court to be an effective tool, Collett said.

People accepted into drug court are generally high risk, high needs clients with prior records of failure to break free of addiction. Often they are violent and come from families with the same histories.

“Those are the persons where drug court is effective,” Collett said.

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals website describes drug court as “a more humane, cost effective justice system.”

Research shows drug courts reduce drug abuse and crime while saving money, the website reads.

Last modified Sept. 1, 2016