Scott Vanderkarr, a Judge with the Franklin County Municipal Court and friend of Koffel Brininger Nesbitt, recently submitted a Letter to the Editor of The Columbus Dispatch to comment on the benefits of Ohio's drug courts. These drug courts are effectively lowering the state's inmate population, but more importantly, giving drug offenders a second chance to make the right choices.
A number of specialized dockets have been introduced to the Ohio criminal justice system, including four drug courts in Franklin County alone. These drug courts, in coordination with programs like Treatment is Essential to Success (TIES), Franklin County has seen a lower recidivism rate and fewer incarcerations per year.
Other specialized dockets include a mental health program, a human trafficking program, and a military veteran service program. The treatment for offenders that appear in these courts often overlap, requiring both mental health counseling as well as substance abuse rehabilitation.
Franklin County used to have an incarceration rate above the state average of 43.7 incarcerations per 10,000 residents. Now, judges are only incarcerating an average of 11.1 percent of convicted drug offenders. In lieu of incarceration, judges are sentencing these offenders to probation, which includes rehabilitation programs. Ohio courts are slowly learning that imprisoning drug offenders doesn't fix the problem. To stop drug offenses, you need to combat drug addiction.
But specialized dockets would not exist without the ongoing support of those in office as well as coordination with health service providers. For example, elected officials have been funding these programs "in exchange for increased public safety and cost savings in jail nights, fewer police resources spent on the same individuals and the reunification of families," said Vanderkarr.
The goal of specialty courts is to marry criminal justice with social service for the purpose of preventing recidivism and rehabilitating the offender.