I recently had the opportunity to speak to a local Kiwanis Club in Midlothian about one of my favorite developments in the law.My topic was the Chesterfield Colonial Heights Drug Court. Drug Court is one of the most important developments in the practice of criminal law in the last 30 years.Statistics show that over 80% of the crimes committed in Chesterfield and the Richmond metro area are related to drug abuse in some way.Everything from car theft and grand larceny to domestic violence can be traced to drug abuse and addiction.Not to mention the felonies of possession of many controlled substances.
The Drug Courts in Chesterfield, Richmond, and Henrico arethree of the 14 in Virginia.They combine intensive treatment and proper punishment to the participants. It is an alternative available for felonies.I serve as Chairman of the Drug Court Foundation for Chesterfield.I am more familiar with how that Court operates. In Chesterfield a person is eligible for drug court if they are charged with a felony possession of a controlled substance. A person who is heavily involved in distribution of drugs is not eligible to participate.People charged with grand larceny, forging checks and forging prescriptions are all eligible.Personnel from the Drug Court will evaluatecandidates to determine if they are truly addicts.
When a person is found eligible they are allowed to pled into the program.If they successfully complete the program, then their charges will be dismissed.If they are terminated from the program they have agreed they will serve at least 6 months for each charge.
The Drug Court has a full team to provide treatment and monitor the participants.Everything from a probation officer to a Chesterfield County policeman is involved.The participants are subject to random testing 24/7.If they are positive they are sanctioned the following Wednesday and sent to jail for at least 10 days.If a participant is sanctioned for dirty screens they are terminated from the program and must serve the jail sentence they pled to.
The success of Chesterfield’s Drug Court is remarkable.The recidivism rate for graduates of the program is less than 17%.It goes to less that 28% for participants who do not successfully complete the program.That is compared to over 50% return for those who do not go into drug court.
In addition the annual cost for a drug court participant is approximately ½ of the cost of incarceration for a year.There are additional costs benefits for our community from drug court.Participants are required to work.This is additional tax revenue.They must remain current on all child support obligations.One of the most dramatic benefits is the savings in neonatal care.The Chesterfield Drug Court has averagedone birth a year to program participants.This means that there is at least one less baby born each year who is not born with an addiction requiring substantial neonatal care.Those savings can amount to over $250,000 per birth.
The Drug Court in Chesterfield is one of the best kept secrets in our area.It is also one of the most effective programs in the battle against the two headed monster of addiction and the crime which is a byproduct of a person’s addiction.