Drug Court has to have wait list

Kitsap County Drug Court, an alternative treatment program that includes weekly interaction with a Superior Court judge, has proven so popular that sponsors have established a waiting list for people to get into the program.

The idea was initiated by Kitsap Prosecutor Attorney Russ Hauge.

“We’re giving more people the opportunity to participate,” said Superior Court Judge Jay Roof. “Right now we are pretty maxxed out.”

At current staffing levels, drug court can accommodate 70 people. Currently, about 10 people are wait-listed. During this time they must attend regular 12-step meetings and submit to urinalysis tests.

This is less stringent than standard drug court requirements but better than leaving people out in society with no treatment, according to Drug Court manager Cherie Lusk.

The prosecutor’s office determines whether an offender qualifies for drug court. Most drug possession offenses qualify, as long as violence or firearms are not part of the equation. Those with a history of sexual offenses are immediately disqualified.

“Drug court was born out of frustration,” Roof said. “Every judge who imposes a sentence in a drug case knows that person will probably be back in front of them before too long. But drug court addresses the issue of addiction where imprisonment or a standard 28-day program does not.”

The concept of therapeutic jurisprudence is more effective. In standard programs only 20 percent of the people never return into the system, while a drug court system has an effectiveness rate of up to 80 percent, according to Roof.

Drug court works in conjunction with Alcoholics Anonymous, requiring regular attendance in the 12-step meetings for all participants. While not a requirement, the court encourages people to continue attendance after drug court graduation.

Under the wait-list program, when someone is terminated another person moves right in.

The drug court consists of one judge (Roof alternates with others on the bench), three treatment providers (one assigned to each participant) a compliance officer and attorneys for the prosecution and defense.

Roof said court officers play different roles than in a standard trial. His own behavior is more like that of a counselor or parent, where he hears about how a participant hit two home runs in a softball game, or will soon need to get his wisdom teeth extracted.

Additionally, Roof receives — and keeps — photo mementos of families. After an encouraging word, Roof asked one female participant if she was nervous. Her answer drew laughter. “A little bit,” she said. “All the time...every Friday.”

“We do not follow our standard role,” Roof said. “I enjoy the interaction, and the result. I missed that interaction being on the bench, the ability to invest in people’s lives.”

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