Taking a step towards its effort to change the way that it treats people that are convicted of crimes related to alcohol and drug, the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners already directed the county staff to proceed with adding a drug court. This is a specialty court that largely depends on the treatment and rehabilitation of those convicted instead of focusing on punitive measures.
Specialty courts, which include drug courts, are a relatively new concept in the legal system that was created in 1989. This is according to the research provided by consultant Steve Thortnon submitted to the county board during the meeting which happened on April 28.
Currently, there are over 2,800 specialty courts that are operating in the U.S. from adult drug courts to family and mental health courts. In Minnesota alone, there are 49 operational specialty courts that include drug courts near the Winona and Wabasha counties. This information is provided by the Minnesota Judicial Branch.
The drug courts are usually 18 to 24-month voluntary programs that help the participants to pursue treatment and rehabilitation under the combined efforts of the legal and social service resources of the county. According to a statement made by District Court Judge Kevin Lund, what the drug courts do is fundamentally change the lives of those individuals who have been on a collision course for quite some time already because of alcohol and drugs.
The benefits of drug courts have been properly documented by consultant Steve Thornton when he provided his research to the county board.
According to Thornton’s data, drug courts help reduce recidivism which is the people’s tendency to re-offend. This, when combined with reductions in the public cost of incarceration also results to savings for the government units that create drug courts.
The Olmsted County Board of Commissioners gave its consensus to County Administrator Richard Devline to pursue the establishment of a drug court. Once established, this court will serve 25-30 high-need, high –risk clients.