Thursday, February 14, 2013

Drug Courts: Success Stories and Funding Opportunities

Throwing drug offenders in jail without addressing the problems that led to their arrest is a recipe for recidivism. In Indian Country, drug and alcohol offenders fill the courts, crowd the jails, and usually end up re-offending after their release. To end this destructive pattern, tribes across the nation have successfully implemented tribal healing to wellness courts. Tribal leaders of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe were initially reluctant to join a partnership with the state of Minnesota and the county courts, but with only two reoffending graduates after seven years, they are now vocal advocates of the wellness court, which also accepts DWI offenders. The tribe recently won an award for court innovation from the National Criminal Justice Association.

Participants in a tribal healing to wellness court work hard on their sobriety, involve family and community in their healing, and engage in traditional healing ceremonies, like sweats. Program staff do their part by  monitoring, meeting with and randomly drug and alcohol testing participants, and updating the tribal and county judges on each person's progress. This model works no matter where it's implemented; there is a very successful drug court serving Harris County, TX.

What's the drawback to tribal healing to wellness or drug courts? Without more judges, staff and service providers, courts can only handle a few people at a time. The Ojibwe and Cass County court supports a maximum of 25 offenders at a time and even the Houston court can only accommodate 50 offenders at a time. The Department of Justice BJA and OJJDP both have currently open grant solicitations to implement sustainable family drug court programs and adult drug court programs (link to PDF).

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