The Use of Oakland County Drug Courts is Important

I recently read about the issue of getting rid of the Oakland County drug courts in several local newspapers. I hope that will all the budget cuts coming that the prosecutors office and the court find money to fund this program. I believe that some people who are prosecuted for using drugs can be helped without the use of jail. It easier to just send the person to jail and not treat them. It is more time consuming for the courts and the prosecutors to keep having to appear in court to keep watch over these people to make sure they are keeping up with their programs and treatment.

Despite the efforts of several metro-area business and community leaders, Oakland County’s drug rehabilitation courts, designed to keep nonviolent addicts out of jail, face closure by September after county Prosecutor Jessica Cooper announced she was withdrawing her staff from the program, officials announced Thursday.

In a June 10 letter, Cooper notified Chief Judge Wendy Potts that because of budget cuts in her office, her assistant prosecutors would not participate. The courts, known as sobriety courts, treat offenders through court monitoring and therapy. The programs take more than a year. Offenders who violate can be sent to jail.

“We don’t have the time and we don’t have the assistant prosecutors,” Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton said. Oakland County judges clearly were disappointed by Cooper’s decision and were looking for ways to continue the program, which requires prosecutors’ participation. Among the considerations are a contract with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office or volunteer attorneys through the State Bar of Michigan.

“It is cost-effective, it changes lives and it’s being used across the country,” Wendy Potts said. “And it saves bed space in the jail, which is always at near-capacity.” Costs to run the courts — divided into juvenile, male and female courts — is about $700,000 a year. Until recently, much of the funding came from state and federal grant money, but those grants are facing cuts. Cooper, in her letter, argued that the program, which has treated 264 addicts so far, “is a labor-intensive program that is clearly not cost-effective.”

I believe the drug courts are an important function of the court to maintain if it all possible. Obviously, the prosecutors office is having budget issues and this is one way to help save money. The courts are also having budget issues. Money should be found to keep this program going to help people with drug addiction.

Information provided by the Metro Detroit Criminal Law Attorneys at Allan W. Ben, PC.

Categories: Criminal Defense