10/21/2015 – 10:21 pm
This is part of a fourteen-week series highlighting many aspects of drug use, enforcement of drug laws and treatment that community members and authorities in Hancock County face.
How has drug and alcohol addiction affected the criminal justice system? Hancock County Common Pleas Court Judge Reginald Routson spoke at the Chemical Dependency Seminar at the University of Findlay Wednesday night. Judge Routson said that there is a bit of a generational gap between judges who believe that drug addiction is a moral choice people make and those who believe that it is a mental disease.
“I think that there is an observable generational difference between how younger judges and older judges deal with these issues. But to be fair we’ve had a system that’s been in effect for a long time. The increase in drug and drug-related cases is, in our world a recent phenomenon.” said Routson.
Judge Routson said that around 85% of all cases that he sees on a daily basis are for drug or drug-related offenses, which stands in stark contrast to when he first took the bench.
“I’ve been around for 27 years. It’s been since I started being a judge that it’s really become a problem. It wasn’t a problem when I started out in 1989 at all. It was not on the radar period.” said Routson.
In response, several courts have instituted a drug court, which is a separate court system that deals with drug-related cases using a different approach. Drug courts use a treatment approach along with a punishment approach to help those charged enter into recovery programs. The drug court is new in Hancock County, having operated less than one year thus far and while he notes it’s too soon to tell, Judge Routson says that the courts have made some progress.
“I have at least three drug court participants who have been clean for seven and a half months having been tested five times a week. That’s success and progress in my view” said Routson.
Routson says that around fifty-one to fifty-three thousand people are currently in Ohio prisons, which doesn’t include local county jails, and he says that given the fact that Ohio has a bed capacity of around thirty-eight thousand, drug courts help to provide an alternative to prison time for some. There is a screening process and not everyone can go through the court, which Routson notes is a drawback, but the screening process is in place to ensure that the people involved are committed to getting help.
“I’ve had a lot of people who want to get in, but they don’t meet the criteria. We’re just not going to let anyone in because there’s a system that’s in place and we don’t want to waste our resources on people who maybe don’t need it, and also people who think it’s a way around the system. Those are our two concerns” said Routson.
Routson says that while that while the drug court in Hancock County is still young, the drug court philosophy shows that progress can be made. Courts can save money by getting people help from addiction and the people on average have fewer addiction issues.
“Recidivism definitely is reduced with drug court participants. A return to addiction definitely reduced” said Routson.
The Hancock County Drug Court meets every Tuesday. More information about the court can be found by clicking here. Next week, State Representative Robert Sprague will discuss how the state legislature has addressed addiction issues. The meeting will be held in Davis 2225 at the University of Findlay next Wednesday night at 6:00 pm.
The seminars are sponsored by The University of Findlay College of Pharmacy, Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services, Hancock County Community Partnership, and the Hancock County Opiate Task Force.
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