MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Opinion

May 23, 2014

Drug court helps society, offenders

Muskogee County’s drug court program offers significant advantages to both taxpayers and non-violent offenders.

The program offers alternative sentencing for non-violent drug offenders.

The program is cheaper to administer than sending busloads of people to prison.

Drug court expenses total about $4,000 for two years per person, compared with the approximate $20,000 to $30,000 per year it costs to incarcerate the person.

It also gives the offender the best chance to get his or her life back together without irreparable repercussions of a prison term.

Muskogee County’s drug court began in 2000, and since then, 149 people have successfully completed the program.

The success rate of Muskogee’s drug court is about 80 percent.

The recidivism rate for individuals who don’t go through drug court but who serve prison sentences is “astronomical,” said Traci Riddle, clinical director at Muskogee County Council of Youth Services.

Riddle said participants who complete drug court are not going to re-offend, and they become taxpaying citizens.

Those who don’t follow the terms of the drug court contract can be sanctioned, Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore said. Sanctions can mean a week in a county jail, or sometimes prison.

“It’s a very strict form of probation,” Moore said. “... The program ... helps to keep from clogging the prisons up with everybody that has drug problems. If they truly want to kick the habit, they can do it in drug court. If they are not sincere, they wind up in prison where they belong.”

We have long been opposed to warehousing our non-violent drug offenders in the prison system.

It does not give someone a legitimate opportunity to kick their addiction.

Drug court offers society and the non-violent offenders a better chance to return to being productive citizens.

An 80 percent success rate is impressive.

The program is a major win-win.

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