Drug Court is an effective alternative for some of the county's most seriously drug-involved offenders. The program is a collaborative effort between the District Attorney's Office, the Court, Community Corrections, the Sheriff's Office and local defense attorneys and treatment providers. The goal of the program is to remove selected offenders with drug problems and criminal charges from the continual "recycling" process of the criminal justice system. Eligible defendants may plead guilty to the criminal charge and be placed on probation and participate in an extensive drug treatment program.
The program relies on intensive treatment and a high level of offender accountability to the Court. Participants attend treatment several times a week, submit to frequent drug testing, report to a probation officer, receive home visits from a sheriff's deputy and appear in court weekly to report progress to a judge. After successful completion of an at least 12 month probationary period, the charges may be dismissed or the sentence reduced. If the Drug Court participant does not successfully complete the program, a prison or jail sentence is imposed.
The Washington County Drug Court began in 2005 and there have been 103 graduations from the program since the spring of 2006 and over $74,000 in restitution has been paid. The participants and graduates combined have had over 1,952 months (over 162 years) in state prison sentences deferred and 423 months in county jail sentences (over 35 years) deferred. Calculating the incarceration costs associated with the prison and jail time saved, that translates to roughly $4.9 million in prison costs ($83.55/day) and $972,000 in local jail time costs ($75.60/day) that have been avoided as a result of this program. In addition, over 120 children have been positively impacted by their parents' participation in drug court, either by being reunited to live with the parent, being reunited with the parent after DHS involvement, or by having drug-free contact with the parent.