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File Photo/Ed Runyan In April 2021, 10 people graduated from Mahoning County Drug Court and expressed their gratitude for returning to a drug-free life. Another 18 people were entering a new class then, a small number due to the ongoing pandemic, compared to 45 to 55 which would be normal. Amy Klumpp, right, drug court coordinator for the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, hugs one of 10 drug court graduates.

Drug addiction courts in Mahoning and Trumbull counties are helping to steer some of those facing criminal charges on drug-related charges toward treatment rather than jail.

Special Courts are designed to help those facing lower level drug offenses avoid a state prison sentence, if they are willing to help themselves through extensive intervention programs designed to help them break the habits of drug and alcohol abuse that brought them to the justice system.

The Mahoning County Drug Court has been in operation under Judge John Durkin for approximately 25 years.

Judges, lawyers, law enforcement officials and treatment professionals work collaboratively to divert offenders from the criminal justice system and help them lead productive, drug- and alcohol-free lives, the courts have said.

The Mahoning Drug Court now has 20 attendees, down from the average of 45 in the years before the pandemic. It is, however, an increase from the 18 people he had in 2021.

“We’ve hit rock bottom because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Amy Klumpp, the program’s coordinator for 17 years. “We just had fewer people in all courts than in previous years.”

Since its inception, the Mahoning County Drug Court has had 714 graduates and 548 fired from it. Only 9% of graduates returned to court facing drug charges, statistics show. Nationally, the recidivism rate is 30%.

Of the Mahoning drug court attendees, 943 are white and 308 are black.

TRUMBULL COUNTY

Trumbull Drug Court has been in operation since 2000. Judge Andrew Logan, along with other local officials, established the drug court as a way to reduce the number of people sent to prison for non-violent crimes related to drugs.

“The biggest benefit is giving people the opportunity to work on their drug and alcohol problems while free, rather than in jail,” said Darryl Rodgers, program coordinator for the County Drug Court. Trumbull. “It is an effective and benevolent alternative. It provides opportunities to address drug, alcohol and mental health issues that can lead to criminal behavior.

Drug courts are the most successful and efficient way to get help for people with substance use disorders, Rodgers said.

The drug court also helps the county because it provides about $6,208 per participant in state dollars, Rodgers said.

Rodgers described the need for these courts today as he did when he began working with them over a decade ago.

There have been 4,253 known overdoses in Trumbull County over the past five years, according to Rodgers. There were 537 overdose deaths during this period, an average of 107 overdose deaths per year.

Over the past five years, Trumbull Drug Court had 354 people who went through its program. It had 252 graduates and 102 who did not complete the program. Those who failed to complete the program were sentenced to prison for the charge to which they originally pleaded when they agreed to participate in the program.

Individuals in the program must be drug-free for at least six months prior to graduation.

Throughout the program, participants are required to attend all required classes, support group meetings, and are required to undergo random testing to determine if they are using.

“We have a 71% completion rate,” Rodgers said.

STATEWIDE

A 2021 report by the American Civil Liberties Union titled “Are drug courts the answer? In Ohio, it’s hard to say,” says there are 135 specialized adult and adult drug courts in Ohio.

Drug courts are operating in 61 of the state’s 88 counties, according to the January 2021 ACLU report. At the time, there were 73 common plea-level felony-level drug courts in the state. Ohio; 18 juvenile drug courts; 37 municipal drug courts; six county courts and a family drug court.

According to the ACLU, of 35 drug courts surveyed, 85% of adult participants were white and 12.4% of adult participants were black. Of the juvenile courts surveyed, some 63.6% of drug court participants were white and 7% identified as being of multiple race.

According to the ACLU report, there are three types of drug courts: juvenile, mental health, and adult misdemeanors.

DIFFERENCES

In Mahoning, felony drug court participants receive treatment instead of sentencing.

“Those who complete the program will not have a criminal record because they have never been convicted of a drug charge related to a drug arrest,” Klumpp said.

“In other counties, those entering the program must plead guilty to the drug offense, and their sentences are suspended until they complete the program,” she said. “Once it’s done, they should request that the charges be removed from their records.”

Trumbull Drug Court is separate from its intervention program instead of sentencing.

“In lieu of sentencing is a very narrow program under the statutes,” Rodgers explained. “You have to be very disciplined to follow him. This is why more people are choosing to go through drug court. It can be more flexible. It takes time to learn to manage. »

In Trumbull County, about 75 percent of people entering the felony drug court program are white and 25 percent are black.

Rodgers said he didn’t know why there was such inequity in those numbers.

Trumbull’s program has welcomed approximately 70 new participants per year.

“We haven’t given up much during the pandemic,” he said. “We made some changes – did some Zoom meetings – but people still needed services.”

There are petty drug courts in Girard and Newton Falls and a family court in Trumbull County Juvenile Court.

Rodgers argues that these drug courts have been effective in helping people resolve their addiction issues because the programs are not adversarial.

COURT CONTROL

Drug courts in both counties are working with a team of agencies, including the adult parole authority, probation officers, Meridian Health, Mahoning and Trumbull county mental health boards and others.

“When someone walks into Mahoning Drug Court, they accept that the court is in control of their life,” Klumpp said. “They have no choice. We assess the level of care required and the facilities they need and send it to them. The choices are ours.

Placing decision-making in the hands of the court often provides stability and direction to those going through it.

Program participants meet with Durkin at least once a week, Klumpp said. Drug court graduates typically stay there for 12 to 16 months.

“Too often people – even those with the best intentions – enter a drug treatment program and give up again and again,” she said. “They are more responsible under this program. If they fail the program, they will be sent to prison.



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