News: 25 Drug Court graduates celebrate recovery

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25 Drug Court graduates celebrate recovery

‘It saved my life’ – program graduate 


Spenser Bickett, Fourth Judicial District Court, 612-801-7583

Carolyn Marinan, Communications, 612-348-5969

During a commencement ceremony Friday, Hennepin County Drug Court recognized 25 graduates who overcame addiction and abstained from repeating the behaviors that brought them to court.

Drug Court aims to increase public safety by quickly identifying and intervening to break the cycle of chemical dependency and crime. The voluntary program works with nonviolent adult offenders who are chemically dependent.

Marta Chou, Drug Court presiding judge, said it is her privilege to work with a dedicated team of professionals focused on reducing criminal recidivism and illegal drug usage, and improving communities through increased employment, education and housing.

“It is a privilege to serve as the presiding judge of the Drug Court and see firsthand the positive change that is possible with long-term treatment, a dedicated multi-disciplinary Drug Court team of professionals, and the ever-important structure and accountability that is synonymous with Drug Court,” Chou said. “This is a difficult and long program, but as these graduates will tell you, it is worth it!”

Breaking the cycle of addiction

Drug Court involves the coordinated efforts of the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, law enforcement, social services, probation, and treatment specialists to quickly identify and intervene with chemically-dependent offenders. 

The Drug Court team keeps participants engaged in treatment, rewards progress for meeting goals and sanctions noncompliant behavior. Drug Court participants receive ongoing judicial supervision from the court, are placed under intensive community supervision, undergo frequent drug testing and engage in long-term chemical dependency treatment. 

“The road has been really rough and I was trying to figure out who I was,” said Brian Williams, drug court graduate. “In a time when there's little hope, it's so important when someone gives you a shot. It made me feel like a new person - like I could get my life back again.”

Drug Court also assists participants in enhancing life-skills through services, such as job training, education, and family counseling. Drug Court encourages participants to take control of their own recovery, but it also has clear and definite requirements which if broken are swiftly dealt with by the judge.

"Drug Court graduation reminds us that a public health approach to treating addiction is desperately needed in the criminal justice system,” said Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty. “It’s wonderful to see the sense of pride and accomplishment on the faces of the graduates. They know that they now have control over their lives and can go on to live productive, healthy lives.” 

An innovative way to reduce recidivism 

The program shifts the way courts are handling certain offenders and working with key stakeholders in the justice system. Research shows that this approach has proven more effective than traditional court strategies at reducing repeat offenses.

“I always walk away from Drug Court graduations with deep admiration for the graduates and deep appreciation for the folks who work with them,” said Board Chair Jan Callison. “Drug Court is an innovative way to help people get back on their feet and become contributing residents of Hennepin County. The program helps break the cycle of addiction and reduces recidivism. I am proud of every graduate and those who helped them with their achievement.”

The court includes professionals from Hennepin County Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation, Hennepin County Health and Human Services, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office, Minneapolis Police Department, Fourth Judicial District Court, Hennepin County Medical Center, area treatment providers, and local partners.

“Through the coordination and collaboration with all of our Hennepin justice partners, individuals are reunited with their families, living a clean and sober lifestyle, ceasing criminal behavior, engaging and working in the community and improving our community in small and big ways,” Chou said. 

For more information on Drug Court, visit the Fourth Judicial District Court webpage.  

Drug court statistics

A study conducted in 2017 for 2011-2013 Drug Court participants revealed: 

  • 59 percent do not recidivate within two years
  • 60 percent have no new warrants within two years
  • 63 percent have no incarceration within two years
  • 19 percent have an increase in their housing stability during Drug Court
  • 22 percent have an increase in their education level during Drug Court
  • 23 percent have an increase in their employment level during Drug Court

2016 program metrics

  • 19-71 years - age range of participants
  • 51 percent participants from communities of color
  • 85 percent have a severe substance use disorder
  • 66 percent men, 34 percent women
  • 67 percent enter Drug Court for a drug felony
  • 34 percent enter Drug Court for a property felony
  • 43 percent graduate

Note for media: Photos of the graduation ceremony are available upon request. 

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