There are criminals and there are drug addicts and often those groups aren’t mutually exclusive. In an effort to discover the most effective way to deal with addicted offenders the Crow Wing County Drug Court was established in 2006.
By all measures the program has been a tremendous success. Crow Wing County officials reported this week that it boasts the top graduation rate in the state.
The Drug Court’s goals are to reduce criminal recidivism and improve public safety. Its 77 percent graduation rate is well above the state average for such courts — 54 percent. The system utilizes a judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, treatment providers, probation officers, law enforcement and other community members, all working with defendants to address their addiction and recovery. Rather than isolate the focus on sobriety, the Drug Court team members help with other aspects of the offenders’ lives: housing, employment, relationships and education. The simplistic notion of merely locking up drug addict-offenders and hoping they’ll kick their habits and lead productive lives is as outmoded as the 1930s movie, “Reefer Madness.”
Here are some more heartening statistics from the Crow Wing County Drug Court:
• 88 percent of all participants had 2 1/2 years or more from the start of the drug program with no new offense.
• 89 percent of participants were employed upon discharge from the program.
• 74 percent of participants had stable housing upon discharge, compared to 39 percent upon entry into the program.
The Crow Wing County Drug Court is an example of an innovative government program that has yielded tremendous savings to taxpayers and to society. It shows the potential for success when bright, committed public servants are allowed to break free of traditional structures.