Wright County's new drug court hopes to keep addicts out of jail


A new program in Wright County is meant to help people addicted to drugs or alcohol get the help they need and stay out of jail.

The Wright County Adult Drug Court was recently approved by the Minnesota Judicial Council, with officials hoping to open the program in October, a news release says.

Drug court programstarget non-violent offenders who suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol to help them put an end to the cycle of abusing a drug, getting arrested and then being sent to jail.

Instead of going to jail, offenders can participate in a program that provides treatment for chemical and mental health to help them break their addiction. The program also includes strict supervision, frequent drug testing and mandatory check-ins with the court.

And it's proven to work.

“Throughout Minnesota, we have seen countless examples of repeat drug offenders entering drug courts, finding the help and treatment they need, and graduating the program sober, employed, and ready to contribute to their community," Tenth Judicial District Court Judge Michele A. Davis said in the release.

An evaluation of the program in 2012, which compared 535 drug court participants to 644 similar offenders who didn't participate in the program, found people in the program had lower recidivism rates, spent fewer days in jail and had higher employment rates.

A follow-up to the evaluation in 2014 found 28 percent of the same drug court participants had received a new conviction, while the number of convictions for non-drug court participants was much higher at 41 percent.

Not only is the program beneficial for the people in it, but it also saves the state thousands of dollars – the average cost savings for each person in the program was $4,288 due to reduced incarceration, the evaluation says.

The first drug court in Minnesota was established in 1996 in Hennepin County, MinnPost reported. Wright County's program will be the 56th in the state, the release says. 

Wright County's program can handle up to 25 offenders at any time, with the program expected to take 14-24 months, the release notes.

In 2015, 17,478 people were arrested in Minnesota for drug abuse crimes, according to the latest Uniform Crime Report. In Wright County, 288 people were arrested for drug abuse crimes.

For more information on Minnesota's adult drug courts – and other specialized court programs – click here.

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