Summit County, Ohio: Summit County Common Pleas Court Administrative Judge Amy Corrigall Jones is pleased to announce the pre-trial screening process has been enhanced to streamline the referral process and reduce delays in identifying eligible participants for the Turning Point Program (TPP), Summit County’s Adult Felony Drug Court, and Valor Court, Summit County’s Veterans Treatment Court.
Beginning March 30, 2018, pretrial officers will indicate whether or not a defendant is eligible for TPP or Valor Court. Depending on the eligibility criteria, all defendants will be ordered by either the Valor Court presiding Judge Corrigall Jones or TPP Presiding Judges Christine Croce and Joy Malek Oldfield to complete a screening for their respective courts. Valor Court eligible participants must be non-violent offenders who are active duty service members or have served in the military. To participate in TPP, participants must be non-violent offenders assessed and diagnosed with alcohol or drug dependency. If eligible, the defendant can choose whether he or she wants to participate in the specialized court program.
“Amongst the Judges, early intervention is a consistent theme. By improving our process in identifying participants for Valor Court and Turning Point, we can confront underlying drug, alcohol and mental health issues immediately and offer the needed treatment earlier in the process,” Judge Corrigall Jones explained.
Valor Court and TPP are problem-solving courts that require defendants engage in services to treat drug and alcohol dependency and mental health disorders, as well as address other barriers such as securing benefits, employment, housing and handling legal issues. Through the duration of their participation, program participants are under the supervision of the court and Adult Probation Department. Both TPP and Valor Court require participants have a comprehensive case plan that includes substance abuse and/or mental health treatment. Participants in both courts must attend regular court sessions to provide an update on their treatment or case plan and progress. The courts adhere to evidence-based practices, offering rewards and sanctions depending on the participant’s progress or probation violations. Each program typically lasts at least 12 months but at the Court’s discretion, participants can remain in these programs for one or more years, depending on their progress and ability to meet their treatment goals.
“Finding a path to recovery, whether it be from drugs and alcohol or PTSD suffered on the battlefield, is incredibly difficult. In Turning Point, as well as Valor Court, we have the opportunity to give participants the right tools and help them stay on that path,” asserted Judge Croce.
It is estimated that one-half to two-thirds of offenders in prison or jail have a substance abuse diagnosis and approximately 17% of prison inmates have a mental health diagnosis. Those with a mental health disorder are also more likely to have a substance abuse disorder. Furthermore, drugs and alcohol are a factor in 80% of crimes, meaning the offender is under the influence of drugs or alcohol; committing crimes to support their drug use; is violent as a result of drug or alcohol use and/or is in possession of drugs. However, incarceration has minimal impact on addressing substance abuse and mental health disorders and subsequently, on reducing crime.
“Problem solving courts like TPP and Valor Court are proven ‘smart on crime’ approaches to handling the growing population of criminal defendants who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction, or mental health disorders. These courts save taxpayers money and improve community safety. Most of the people we see in Court aren’t going to prison for life. They are going to get out and be part of our community, so we need to help them become productive and contributing members,” Judge Malek Oldfield said.
Valor Court and TPP provide therapeutic jurisprudence and interventions to address core issues contributing to criminal behavior that regular court dockets don’t. Specialty courts also reduce costs by not burdening corrections. This is why early identification of eligible participants and making the referral process more efficient is important.
“With the state legislature enacting the Ohio Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison (TCAP) program, new state regulations prohibiting courts from sending Felony 5 offenders (with minor exceptions) to prison, local jail beds will be the only option for incarceration for certain felony offenders. Our hope is an additional benefit of early screening and program placement will be a reduction in the pretrial population at the Summit County Jail, opening beds for offenders that should be incarcerated that will not be accepted into our state prisons,” concluded Judge Corrigall Jones.