Felony Recovery Court just makes good sense

Published 9:45 am Monday, February 20, 2017


The First Judicial District now has a new tool to help felons become more productive members of society and to help them break the cycle of being a repeat offender.
The Felony Recovery Court was launched this week with the help of local judges, Stacy Street and Lisa Rice.
Recovery courts are special courts or dedicated dockets within existing courts that focus on cases involving substance-abusing offenders. They offer these offenders a road to recovery rather than a ride to jail.
In recovery courts, judges typically hold cases open so offenders can get treatment over a specified period of time. Offenders receive services such as counseling, supervision, drug testing and incentives for meeting recovery goals. If they successfully complete treatment, they can go free; if not, they go to jail.
In addition to staying drug-free, participants are to maintain or improve their employment status and homes, plus obtain more education or job skills.
What’s important is the recovery court provides the opportunity to improve lives and strengthen our community. These courts offer a way out of a vicious cycle of repeat crimes and jail by connecting nonviolent offenders into programs that rehabilitate.
While the recovery court is new to Carter County, such courts are a statewide effort. Gov. Bill Haslam has included funding in his proposed budget for expanding recovery courts to every county in the state. The governor’s commitment to funding alternatives to incarceration is admirable and should be shared by legislators and court systems across the state.
Tennessee’s drug problem has reached epidemic proportions. There has been a 220 percent increase in drug overdose deaths in Tennessee since 1999. In 2014, the last year for which statistics are available, more people died as a result of overdoses in the state than ever before.
The goals of Tennessee Recovery Courts are:
• Redirect individuals out of the criminal justice system
• Increase commitment to substance abuse treatment and recovery
• Reduce the use of alcohol and drugs, with an emphasis on Rx Drugs
• Provide recovery support services to local courts
According to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, recovery courts are effective. Eight in 10 people who go through the program stay out of legal trouble for at least a year after completing treatment. From 2013 to 2015, 81 percent got jobs or improved their employment status, while 28 percent of those who were homeless or living in a group home found their own residences.
While felony recovery courts may not help everyone or remedy the problem, it does get to the heart of the lawbreaker’s problem, tries to remedy it, and works with the offender to show that the courts and society do care and want to work with them to better their lives.
Alternatives to jail such as recovery courts are humane, sensible and cost-effective ways to treat substance abuse. Under Haslam’s proposed budget, non-violent drug offenders in every corner of the state could have hope for a better future.
There are instances when substance and mental health issues are the main reasons for unacceptable behaviors. And jail and prison for some of those suffering with these issues may do more harm than good when solid counseling and job training, etc., would be better choices.
Conversely, drug addiction, left untreated, often leads to other crimes. It’s one of the main reasons children end up in foster care, and one of the main reasons inmates are behind bars.
So the good news is local courts are working to reduce drug abuse among repeat offenders and that it costs far less than the alternative.
The more we can address life problems for people without just sticking them behind prison bars, the better.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox