NEW HAMPSHIRE’S FIRST ADULT DRUG TREATMENT COURT CELEBRATES 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY

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On November 22, 2004 Strafford County initiated the first Adult Drug Treatment Court in New Hampshire. Following this one year pilot program, on September 8, 2005 The Strafford County Commissioners secured a three year grant from The Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance to start a fully funded Drug Court Program commencing operations on January 16, 2006. The Drug Treatment Court targets high risk-high need, drug dependent, misdemeanor, felony, parole and probation violators with an overall mission to enhance public safety, decrease victimization, and improve the quality of life in our community by ensuring offenders access to effective substance abuse treatment while holding offenders accountable and controlling societal costs.

 

The recidivism rate of offenders reentering our communities from jails and prisons is a staggering statistic nationwide. According to the Bureau of Justice, 67.5% of offenders reentering our communities are rearrested within three years of release, with 30% of these rearrests occurring within the first six months of release.

Strafford County Drug Treatment Court is an integrated approach involving consistent-community supervision, judicial intervention, case management and intensive outpatient treatment. Without such an integrated approach, a newly released offender is at much greater risk to return to a life of crime. The Strafford County Drug Treatment Court has achieved a remarkable success rate among its high risk, high need substance abusing offenders. Of the 121 participants who have graduated the Strafford County Drug Treatment Court, only twenty seven graduates or 22% have recidivated (committed a new felony or misdemeanor level offense) within three years of program completion, one third of the national average.

Drug Treatment Courts are specially designed court dockets, the purposes of which are to achieve a reduction in recidivism and substance use for high risk and high need substance abusing offenders and to also increase these offender’s likelihood of successful rehabilitation through early, continuous, and intense judicially supervised treatment, random drug testing, community supervision, case management and use of appropriate sanctions and other rehabilitation services.

According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, the most rigorous and conservative scientific “meta-analyses” have concluded that Drug Courts significantly reduce crime as much as 45 percent more than other sentencing options. Drug Treatment Courts use validated tools for evaluating offenders for enrollment and utilize best practice models for treatment delivery.

The Drug Treatment Court is a collaborative effort between the Strafford County Commissioners, Strafford County Superior Court, New Hampshire Department of Corrections, Strafford County Attorney’s Office, Dover New Hampshire Public Defenders Office, Strafford County Department of Corrections, Strafford County Sheriff’s Office and Southeastern New Hampshire Services. The Strafford County Drug Treatment Court is a 24-30 month, post-plea program for felony and misdemeanor defendants and also parolees. For some participants whose cases warrant, their convictions are vacated at the end of successful program completion. The opportunity for a vacated conviction is a large incentive for those individuals.

The cost to incarcerate an individual at the Strafford County House of Corrections is $84.00 per day. Supervising an individual in Drug Treatment Court costs less than $9.00 per day. Nationwide, for every $1.00 invested in Drug Court, taxpayers save as much as $3.36 in avoided criminal justice costs alone. When considering other cost offsets such as savings from reduced victimization and healthcare service utilization, studies have shown benefits range up to $27 for every $1 invested. The Strafford County Drug Treatment Court has maintained an average of 52 offenders enrolled in the program since inception.

According to the National Institute of Justice there are currently 1,432 adult Drug Treatment Courts in operation across the country. In New Hampshire there are currently six counties with fully operational adult Drug Treatment Courts; Strafford, Rockingham, Grafton, Cheshire, Belknap and Hillsborough-South (others are in the process of being developed). The Strafford County Drug Treatment Court has had consistent support of the Strafford County Board of Commissioners since the pilot program in 2004.