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Butler County Establishes Drug Court to Focus on Rehabilitation

In 2009, the Butler County district attorney's office handled 2,525 criminal prosecutions. Of those prosecutions, 1,168 involved a defendant who had a drug or alcohol problem. According to a community health assessment undertaken by Butler Memorial Hospital, approximately 19 percent of Butler County residents report abusing drugs or alcohol.

In today's criminal justice system, the focus is all too often on punishing the offense instead of on rehabilitating the offender. Incarceration has often proved to be an ineffective, if not counterproductive, method for addressing the problems of many people who suffer from drug addiction and commit crimes because of their substance abuse problems. With that in mind, Butler County is now establishing an alternate process for prosecuting people who suffer from chemical dependency.

In 2011, Butler County will establish a drug treatment court. A state grant and a grant from the Staunton Farms Foundation of Pittsburgh will partially fund the court. Under the program, the Butler County district attorney's office will select about 30 defendants who are considered appropriate for the program.

If selected to participate in drug treatment court, defendants will plead guilty in exchange for a different type of sentence than incarceration. Although some jail time may be included as part of a sentence, the focus will be on placing the defendant in an intensive probation program, which will involve frequent monitoring by a special probation officer who will focus solely on drug court participants. The program will likely include supervision for 12 to 18 months instead of jail time.

The standards for selecting drug court participants have not yet been finalized, but it is believed that most defendants will be people charged with drug or alcohol related misdemeanors. People charged with sex offenses and homicide will likely not be eligible, but some people charged with felonies may be allowed to participate.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Butler County drug court will work on treatment," Karen Kane, 12/30/2010

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