Drug court participants get second chance

Monday, November 12, 2001

P Those fortunate enough to be sent to drug court have an excellent opportunity to turn their lives around and become productive citizens.

Time will tell how successful Cape Girardeau County's new drug court is, but if it works as well as those in other Missouri counties, the program should be around for a long time.

Drug courts are an alternative to incarceration designed to give nonviolent, first-time drug offenders supervised treatment.

Participants are recommended to the program by the prosecuting attorney.

If they are successful, they are able to move on with their lives without a criminal conviction. That is accomplished by the judge ordering a suspended imposition of sentence. They first must plead guilty and prove themselves worthy of a suspended imposition of sentence by successfully completing the program and a probationary period.

From the time people enter the program, every detail of their lives is scrutinized. Screened at least twice weekly for drugs, offenders are also required to attend drug-recovery meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

They are in daily contact with either a case worker, a probation officer or a drug counselor. Because everyone involved is in constant communication with each other, lies are quickly exposed and confrontations swift. Each Friday morning, they are held accountable by Associate Circuit Judge Peter Statler.

Participants who don't abide by the rules may quickly find themselves in jail or prison, where other first-time offenders not referred to drug court often end up.

Drug-court participants, many of whom are accused of felonies, are being given a second chance to straighten out their lives, and that means staying off drugs.

Participants should consider themselves fortunate to be able to participate in the program.

It offers plenty of incentive to seek sobriety through support of the court and other professionals, and if that isn't enough the alternative of incarceration should be.

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