A courtroom is not a place where you expect to find scenes of celebration and tears of joy. Unless, of course, it is drug court.
During the month of May, Ogle County New Horizon’s Specialty Court is joining more than 3,000 such programs nationwide in celebrating National Drug Court Month. In 2019 alone, more than 150,000 individuals nationwide who entered the justice system due to addiction will receive life-saving treatment and the chance to repair their lives, reconnect with their families and find long-term recovery. National Drug Court Month is not only a celebration of the lives restored by drug court, it also sends the powerful message that these programs must be expanded to reach more people in need.
Ogle County New Horizons Drug Court is proudly celebrating its 10th year Anniversary. In 2009, Ogle County New Horizons Drug Court opened its doors with a simple premise: rather than continue to allow individuals with long histories of addiction and crime to continue to cycle through the justice system at great expense to the public, use the leverage of the court to keep them engaged in treatment long enough to be successful. Since inception Ogle County’s Drug Court has had 36 graduates and 13 current participants.
Today, drug courts and other treatment courts have proven that a combination of accountability and compassion can not only save lives, but save valuable resources and reduce exorbitant criminal justice costs.
Joe S., a lifelong Rochelle resident, is an alcoholic and heroin addict. He began using in his early teens. He has multiple felonies and has been to prison two times. As a non-functioning addict, he was not able to hold down a job so he robbed and hurt people to support his addiction; everyone was his victim. In January of 2017 he committed his last crime. Facing a prison term of 10-15 years he never expected to be offered a chance to clean up his life by pleading into Drug Court, but his public defender, Kathleen Isley, saw something in him and he was offered the opportunity.
Joe graduated from Drug Court in September of 2018. Through the process he was able to stay clean, learn coping skills and most importantly reunite with his family and wife of 15 years. He is clean and sober and is gainfully employed. He credits his success on his willingness to change, the unwavering support of the Drug Court team and God, his higher power. He gives back by speaking openly about his journey, most recently at the Annual Awareness Dinner at Salt 251 in Rochelle.
This is just one of thousands of individual stories that demonstrate why treatment courts are so critical in the effort to address addition and related crime. But if you are looking for research, treatment courts have that, too. Numerous studies have found treatment courts reduce crime and drug use and save money. They also improve education, employment, housing, financial stability and family reunification, which reduces foster care placements.
Treatment courts represent a compassionate approach to the ravages of addiction. This year’s National Drug Court Month celebration should signal that the time has come to reap the economic and societal benefits of expanding this proven budget solution to all in need.
Pictured from front left are Drug Court Graduates Chris Jones, Maddy Martin and Joe Simms. From back left are Drug Court team members Brigette Beckman, Brian Peterson, Kathleen Isley, State’s Attorney Eric Morros, Kevin Buss, Stacy Noble, Judge Ben Roe, Illinois State Representative Tom Demmer, Dennis Riley and Brooke Plachno.