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Criminal Justice Panel Hears ‘Specialty Court’ Update

January 22nd, 2020

Potter County Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB) members heard the latest results from the county’s treatment courts and discussed a proposal to establish a “reporting center” for men who are involved in the criminal justice system during their quarterly meeting last week. In 2013, county officials established a DUI Treatment Court for qualifying offenders whose crimes were related to alcohol abuse. That was followed by a Drug Treatment Court in 2015. Under the specialty court model, defendants who are diagnosed with addiction issues and meet other criteria can avoid further criminal sanctions if they commit to an intensive treatment regimen and other conditions.

It’s part of a broader strategy to reduce the number of repeat offenders in the criminal justice system by addressing factors that affect their behavior and decision-making. Senior Judge John Leete presides over both courts. Participation declined over the second half of 2019 and currently stands at three for DUI Court and eight for Drug Court. County officials are investigating options for combining the courts by 2023, depending on caseloads and other factors. DUI Court has earned state accreditation through December 2022. Drug Court has not been accredited.

CJAB chairman President Judge Stephen Minor presented a statistical summary for 2019 reflecting that none of the nearly 400 urine tests taken for alcohol or other drug use by DUI Court participants came back positive. The Drug Court was another story. Although there were 1,427 negative drug tests, another 85 came back positive – 37 for methamphetamine, 36 for amphetamines, nine for marijuana and one each for cocaine, benzodiazepines and alcohol.

A men’s reporting center was proposed as a complement to the Women’s Recovery Center operated by Northern Tier Children’s Home for court-referred offenders. There, they receive mental health and addiction recovery services, as well as other assistance to help them successfully return to society. Some CJAB members, including District Attorney Andy Watson, expressed support for the “restrictive intermediate punishment” concept as an alternative to incarceration. The center could also serve as a site for offenders who are clients of re-entry services specialist Patrick Harris. Potter County Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman may be approached with a request to investigate establishing the center.

Also at last week’s meeting, CJAB members discussed new security standards that will be required at district judge offices and reviewed the findings of the Sequential Intercept Mapping Workshop held last summer in an effort to improve the criminal justice system’s handling of offenders with mental illness.

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