THREE RIVERS AREA The inmate took small steps as the chain that shackled his feet dragged across the wooden courtroom floor. But not all of those who step in front of Judge Craig Hannah each Monday are dressed in orange jumpsuits. The 17th Judicial District Drug Court has 28 clients who have a substance-abuse problem and have been arrested for a drug-related felony.
“How’s everything going at home?” Hannah asked one of the clients as if he were having a conversation with an old friend. “How are the children?”
Those who enter Hannah’s court are trying to better themselves through the drug court program, which requires them to stay clean and employed.
Most counties in Arkansas have a drug court - a three-year, five-phase program designed to help its clientskick drug addiction and become productive members of their communities. Successful graduation from the program results in dismissal of the clients’ felony charges.
What began as a pilot program in Pulaski County in 1994 has expanded to 42 adult drug courts, 10 juvenile drug courts and two DWI court programs.
The drug court in White County began in November 2003. The prosecuting attorney’s office recommends clients for the voluntary program who meet certain criteria, such as having a drug- or alcohol-related felony charge, no mental-health concerns, no sex- or violent-crime charges and no other charges pending. Drug court clients must be at least 18 years old.
Deputy Prosecutor Phyllis Hendrix said drug use transcends social and economic lines.
“S om e of ou r cl i e nt s h avemaster’s degrees,” Hendrix said. “There are no boundaries.”
The main drug of choice seems to be methamphetamine, Deputy Prosecutor Becky Reed said.
After the client is referred to drug court by the prosecutor, he or she agrees to appear regularly in court, be supervised by a Department of Community Correction probation officer, undergo drug treatment and random testing, and attend regular 12-step meetings.
Probation/parole agent Tiffany Jackson works closely with the clients and makes regular home visits. The clients are also subject to home and vehicle inspections.
“The repeat offender rate is 5 percent,” Hannah said. “[Drug court participants] make good employees because they are drug-tested all the time, and they are sanctioned by the court. We make them get their GED and make them do what they should be doing.”
The phases of the program are as follows:
Phase I: Orientation and intensive substance-abuse treatment for a minimum of 12 weeks.
Phase II: Moral reconation therapy (cognitive behavioral treatment) fora minimum of 16 weeks. This phase is to raise moral reasoning levels, enhance self-image and promote productivity.
Phase II: Daily living skills and identifying and resolving emotions in recovery for a minimum of 12 weeks. The focus of this phase is to develop basic daily living skills.
Phase IV: Relapse prevention for a minimum of 12 weeks. This is to arm the client with relapse knowledge and to develop a working relapse-prevention plan.
Phase V: Aftercare, a graduate monitoring program.
“Even after they graduate, we still stay in contact withthem,” Jackson said.
The 17th Judicial District Drug Court Program uses a strike system to implement sanctions for those clients who are not complying with the drug court rules. After each strike, the client could face jail time, community service or time in a regional correctional facility.
Strikes can include failing or missing a drug test, an unexcused absence from court or 12-step group meetings, misdemeanor charges of a nonviolent nature that result in jail time, failure to keep a job or failure to maintain contact with a support-group sponsor.
For more information on the Arkansas Drug Court program, visit courts.state.ar.us/drugcourt.
- jbrosius@ arkansasonline.com
Three Rivers, Pages 57 on 04/29/2010
Print Headline: Drug court helps clients battle addiction