Washington County drug court shelved for now

MARIETTA – The goal of re-establishing a dedicated drug court in Washington County has been temporarily shelved.

Marietta Municipal and Washington County Common Pleas Courts were recently denied a $218,036.71 grant for which they applied in June 2012 and officials are not planning to reapply this year, said Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Ed Lane.

“That’s the third time the state has turned us down,” he said.

The funding from the U.S. Department of Justice through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant which would have helped pay for employees who could give special supervision, counseling and case management to drug-related offenders.

Not getting the grant was somewhat of a shock as the county had an excellent track record with its previous drug court program, which ran from October 2004 to August 2008 and was funded by a four-year federal grant, said Lane.

“When we had the federal grant, the state was bringing people down here to show them how to run a drug court,” he recalled.

More than 200 people went through the Washington County program, according to retired Commons Pleas Judge Susan Boyer.

However, that grant was a one-time deal, said Lane. He has not been able to get an answer as to why the recent grant application was denied, he said.

“We put a lot of work into that grant. We thought we had a really good chance. (Marietta Municipal Court and Washington County Common Pleas Court) were going to share staff and run two drug courts for the price of one,” said Lane.

One of the reasons the county was hoping to re-establish the special docket is because of the great success they experienced with the initial program. The drug court essentially allowed a dedicated staff – one probation officer, one case worker and one drug and alcohol counselor – to provide a more structured rehabilitation plan for drug-related offenders approved for the drug court program.

The program covered those guilty of directly drug-related offenses, such as possession or trafficking. But the court also tackled other offenses fueled by addiction, such as theft and criminal damaging, said Lane.

Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks, who was on the drug court’s community board, said it was a very useful tool for dealing with such offenders.

“We have to look at other methods of sentencing other than incarceration,” he said.

The program was constantly drug testing participants to make sure they were staying on track and helped find them jobs so they could become contributing members of society, said Mincks.

Perhaps the most noticeable deficiency of not having the drug court is the amount of supervision available to offenders, said Lane.

“I have a great probation department and officers. But the state simply severely cut back the amount of supervision they allow officers to do,” he said.

However, even without the drug court Lane has been having good success rehabilitating offenders lately, he said.

The SEPTA Correctional Facility in Nelsonville has been very helpful in helping build job skills and finding employment for offenders, he said. Additionally, L&P Services has been a dependable source of addiction counseling, he said.

“I’m disappointed,” said Lane. “But I’m not despondent because I am getting good results with what I’m doing.”