By Anne Colt Leitess
Since 1997, the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office has remained dedicated to changing the lives of our county’s citizens who battle substance abuse by participating in both a District Court and Circuit Court Adult Drug Treatment Court. Both provide a comprehensive and judicially supervised rehabilitation program that emphasizes restorative practices for those who have committed non–violent crimes. My office provides three paralegals and two prosecutors who work almost exclusively in determining which cases and defendants are most appropriate for these treatment courts and then supporting their journey throughout.
Adult Drug Treatment Court isn’t a walk in the park. Participants don’t get to circumvent the court system - they are made to embrace it and allow a team of counselors, paralegals, prosecutors and judges to monitor just about every aspect of their lives closely. They must commit to sobriety and treatment to avoid a jail sentence. A missed counseling appointment risks a stay in our local detention center. This is tough love at its finest, and drug court is really the best chance for a person to turn his or her life around before jail becomes their ultimate fate. Our District Court Drug Court has graduated 1,879 clients in the 22 years of the program, and in our Circuit Court, more than 270 citizens have graduated since it began in 2005.
The most important reason my office staffs our drug courts is to help individuals trade the label of “criminal” and “addict” for “parent,” “employee” and “neighbor.” My goal is to help our citizens work, care for their families, and become productive members of the community rather than addicted to drugs and committing crimes to support their habit.
National statistics show that 75% of drug court graduates remain arrest-free over a 10-year period compared to the 30% of people who are released from prison but receive no treatment. The recidivism rate for drug court participants is reduced by 45% overall. A more practical benefit is that sending someone to drug court rather than state prison can save states up to $13,000 per participant.
The success of the drug court is rooted in two essential components: an individualized blueprint and a collaborative approach.
Each participant adheres to a tailored service plan to address his or her specific addiction, mental health, physical health, employment, educational, legal and family needs. The program consists of four phases designed to last 12 to 18 months, and if successful, culminates in graduation.
Phase I - Foundation: The client and case manager create an individualized service plan with clear expectations.
Phase II – Engagement: The client’s progress and objectives are assessed and targeted counseling begins.
Phase III – Maintenance: Progress, treatment goals and objectives are fine-tuned. Counseling focuses on coping and relapse prevention. Family involvement is encouraged for the recovery journey.
Phase IV - Aftercare: The main focus is relapse prevention and the client is encouraged to maintain an independent lifestyle during recovery.
The partnership between our office, the county courts, the public defender, the Division of Parole and Probation, the Anne Arundel Department of Health and detention center, and local treatment providers is crucial for our drug courts’ success. These dynamic groups of professionals use their expertise to provide each client with the resources they need to reclaim their lives and remain drug free.
Now, do some of the participants face challenges while in the program? Absolutely! But, that’s part of the process.
The ability to make a mistake, be held accountable and positively respond is the true measure of success in the program.
So, while May is recognized as National Drug Court Month nationally, I’m proud of our Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office’s commitment to helping our county’s citizens turn their lives around through Adult Drug Treatment Court all year long.