Drug Court shows softer side of law

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April 26, 2013 - 12:00 AM

The 31st judicial district has stepped out of its comfort zone to embrace a program that exposes the more human side of the court system.
Drug Court, started in January, is a program for those charged with felony drug possession crimes in an effort to “make their lives better,” said District Judge Daniel Creitz.
The 12-month program includes random drug tests, home searches, education, therapy and rehabilitation.
The court convened on Thursday afternoon, to hear updates on the progress of the 14 involved in the program. Prior to the hearings, therapists, lawyers, and social workers met to discuss how each of their clients was doing.
As they mulled over the updates, it was evident that some were doing well, while others were falling short.
“I want to see everyone succeed,” Creitz said. “But that is not going to happen.”
It puts the judge in an interesting position, he said, because so much of the program is based on how he communicates with the people involved.
“A lot of the success and failure in the program depends on my ability to communicate with them,” he said. “That’s not the way I was trained.”
There is a substantial amount of communication in the courtroom. The members were admonished and given lessons on honesty when they had failed a urinary analysis test. One member, who admitted to Creitz that he had used methamphetamine over the past weekend, said his surroundings are not conducive to healing, and he wants to go to rehab.
“Being called a junkie is self-defeating,” he told the judge. “I’m willing to accept the full punishment.”
The judge spoke to him about the nature of the program, and what it is meant to accomplish.
“I’m not giving up on you, we are not giving up on you,” he said.
The afternoon was stocked full of stories, some sad, but others were met with jubilation by the court, showing how both parties are invested in the process.
One person’s testimony brought a large applause from the court.
While he admitted to using methamphetamines on April 6, he had taken his GED test and passed on the first try. On top of that, he received a scholarship to attend Allen Community College in the fall. His story was met by an ovation from Creitz and his colleagues.
“A lot of these people don’t have that (applause) in their lives,” Creitz said. “They haven’t had much of a chance.”

ADDICTION is a “tough road,” said Creitz and credited former Allen County Sheriff Tom Williams with getting the ball rolling on bringing the drug court to this area.
Creitz said it took some convincing, but after visiting different Drug Courts in Kansas and Missouri, he knew it was something that needed to be done.
Now, the program has 14 members and he expects numbers “in the 30s” by the end of the summer. He stressed that the program is not required by law, and his staff — law enforcement, social workers, office workers — spend a lot of time and effort to make sure the program works.
“It’s a team effort, I rely on them,” he said.
At the end of the 12 months, he said they will have actual graduations for the people who are successful. He described one graduation he attended in Emporia. A former graduate addressed the people that had beaten their addictions for his keynote speech — Creitz said it was powerful to see how far they had come.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the courtroom,” he said.

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