Someone does not wake up one day and decide to become addicted to drugs. Addiction is not a choice, it is a chronic brain disease; a health issue not a moral failing. Often times, addicts face some form of legal consequences throughout their active addiction. This is also not something they aspire to do or become. So wouldn’t it be better to offer the person addiction treatment, rather than punish them? Many judiciary systems would agree, especially in counties such as Lackawanna and Luzerne.
The first problem-solving court in Pennsylvania, or Treatment Court program, was initiated in 1997 in Philadelphia. In 2011, the State Supreme Court created an accreditation program for problem-solving and DUI courts. The accreditation program acknowledges that specific courts have demonstrated proven performance and standards. Currently, Pennsylvania has 20 accredited courts, including Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties.
What Is Treatment Court?
Unfortunately, drug addicts and alcoholics often come in contact with the criminal justice system before ever being introduced to social services systems, such as addiction treatment. Due to this, many drug abusers fall through the cracks, never receiving the treatment they need and continue to repeat the same cycle over and over again. By combining intensive judicial supervision, mandatory and random drug screen analyses, and addiction treatment, Treatment Courts intend to prevent such occurrences, introduce more addicts to the possibility of recovery, and inevitably stop the cycle of addiction and crime.
How Does Treatment Court Work?
Treatment Courts are made up of and coordinated by the Court Treatment Team. That team is led by a judge and includes a prosecutor, defense counsel, probation officers, addiction treatment provider or facility, court coordinator and law enforcement. Their ultimate goal is to maintain a balance of authority, while offering support and encouraging accountability and responsibility in the treatment process.
In order for an offender to be placed on Treatment Court, a few requirements need to be met. Firstly, an offender will not qualify if they are being charged with any form of violent acts or prosecuted for a weapons possession. Furthermore, the offender has to have their defense attorney or public defender petition for Treatment Court through the District Attorney’s office.
Once an individual is placed on Treatment Court, they are then obligated to fulfill certain requirements. For instance, in Lackawanna County, an offender must meet with the Court Treatment Team for a minimum of 18 months, and usually lasts up to 3 years. During this time, the offender with go through 4 phases of treatment, which include, mandatory drug screenings, ongoing judicial interaction, monitoring and evaluation, and a continuum of addiction treatment. Each phase does not have a set standard length of time, rather is decided based on the person’s individual progress throughout treatment. The team will also incentivize goals for each offender to make, such educational and employment objectives.
While the individual pleads guilty to the original charges, sentencing of those charges is postponed pending a successful completion of the program. In some counties, such as Lackawanna, once the individual completes Treatment Court, their charges are then dismissed.
Why Systems Like This Are Important
With the drug epidemic boiling over to greatened heights, it is imperative that we do our part to staunch the ever growing number of overdoses and deaths. Treatment courts play a vital role in fighting the drug epidemic. They offer the addict an opportunity to break the cycle of addiction, presenting a solution that may have not been presented to them otherwise.
It goes without saying, but of course when someone breaks the law, they should be held responsible for their actions and crimes. Nevertheless, addicts typically face criminal consequences solely based on the fact that they are addicted, whether it be a possession charge, theft charge, etc. More often than not, these individuals would not behave in this manner if they weren’t afflicted with the disease of addiction. With that being said, wouldn’t it be better to treat the addiction rather than punish the one behavior? When doing so, the individual has a greater chance of bettering themselves, and we, as a whole, have a better chance of decreasing the number of deaths and overdoses.
One of Clearbrook’s staff members and alumni has personally benefited from being a part of Treatment Court in Lackawanna County. After years of failed attempts towards recovery and spending 3 months in jail, Rich decided it was finally time to do something different. He applied for Treatment Court in Lackawanna County and because of it, his life has changed exponentially. Today, he is over 3 years sober, an active participant in a 12-step program, sponsor to other alcoholics, friend, employee, and most importantly, a father. He has said his son is the greatest gift his sobriety has given him. In regards to his experience with Treatment Court, Rich noted:
“I knew I needed to get sober or I was going to live my life in jail. I needed to be held accountable and responsible, and that’s what drug court does. They make sure you are seeing an outpatient therapist and you’re making your meetings. The treatment team doesn’t want to throw you in jail, they genuinely want to help you. Because of drug court, I was no longer the guy that was doing the wrong thing in program. I became actively involved in the rooms and began thoroughly working the steps with my sponsor.”
Contact Clearbrook Today
If you or someone you love is suffering from alcoholism or chemical dependency, we are able to help. For more than 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been a leader in addiction treatment and helping people rebuild and restore their lives. If you are ready to take the step and ask for help, contact our Admissions Specialists today.