Friday News Roundup: July 27, 2018

Friday News Roundup
Professionals split on the value of mandatory substance abuse treatment, Oklahoma sees a return on investment from drug courts, and a new agreement between Baton Rouge prosecutors and public defenders simplifies sharing of evidence. All these stories and much more in the latest edition of the Friday News Roundup. 

Criminal Justice News

Is Forcing People With Substance Use Disorder Into Drug Treatment a Good Idea? –  Having a judge order someone struggling with substance use disorder into treatment against his or her wishes is a controversial approach among addiction treatment clinicians. About three dozen states have laws allowing judges to order people into treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. There’s no consensus among clinicians that mandatory treatment is an effective approach, and research suggests it’s not particularly effective. A 2016 meta-analysis of nine studies in the International Journal of Drug Policy found no evidence of improved outcomes with compulsory treatment. (U.S. News and World Report, 7/19/18)

Drug Treatment Courts

Focusing on gaps in services for people with opioid addiction – Using a process known as sequential intercept mapping, the community justice project has held 18 workshops across the state, with more planned. If “sequential intercept mapping” sounds like jargon, this is what it means: key players within the jurisdiction of a particular court gather for work sessions to reveal places within the system that individuals could be helped off that conveyor belt of addiction and incarceration. Participants in the Northampton workshop discussed barriers to treatment and points at which individuals might accept help. They discussed gaps in services and got to know each other better — a step toward smoother working relationships that can fill in some of those gaps. (Daily Hampshire Gazette, MA, 7/23/18)

Bottom line on Oklahoma drug courts: They work – Members of the Legislature often complain that their spending decisions are made more difficult by a lack of hard data from state agencies. This shouldn’t be an issue as it pertains to the state’s mental health agency and its drug courts. Simply put, these courts work for the vast majority of those chosen to participate, and for the taxpayers. He says addiction is a piece of about 75 percent of all criminal cases in Oklahoma. He has called it “the public health crisis of our time.” “We have to double and triple down on our drug courts because they work so well,” Stoner told Schwab. “We’re heading in the right direction but we have a long way to go. (NewsOK, OK, 7/23/18)

Drug diversion program affected by new substance – Ten participants in Skagit County drug court tested positive last month for a drug called kratom, putting their status in the jail alternative program in jeopardy. Kratom is a tropical tree whose leaves have historically been used for medicinal purposes, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. At low doses, the drug produces stimulant effects, and at high doses it can cause hallucinations and effects similar to opioids. Phoenix Recovery Services, the clinic the county contracts with to work with those in drug court, first tested participants and some prospective participants for kratom June 15 after being made aware of the substance by the lab that processes its tests, therapeutic court specialist Bev Carman said. (, WA, 7/19/18)

Confronting trauma, overcoming addiction: A woman’s journey through NJ’s drug courts – For people like Amanda Zita, who spent six years on and off OxyContin and heroin, drug court is one of the only government programs that has proved effective at breaking the cycle of addiction and crime. New Jersey’s 21 county drug courts have offered 22,973 addicts an alternative to incarceration since the program started in 2002, according to the state courts system. Of those, 37 percent have graduated or are currently serving the final, and lightest, phase of probation. “Most drug courts today that are on the ball have a significant trauma-informed piece because [trauma] is so common, and it absolutely can sabotage recovery,” Walton said. “The goal is to become trauma competent.” (, NJ, 7/19/18)

How does a drug court celebrate sobriety? A festival – But Diderrich said recovery doesn’t stop after graduation. That’s why she said events like Saturday’s Sober Fest are so important for the community. The celebration, which features a softball tournament and hog roast, is a chance for local Drug Court participants, alumni, family and friends to support the programs. For programs like Dodge County’s, which was the first rural drug court in Minnesota, he said one of the most important goals of events like Sober Fest is showcasing the impact participants can have back in their own, wider communities. (Post Bulletin, MN, 7/19/18)

Juvenile Justice

Committee to Oversee Juvenile Justice Overhaul Beginning Next Week – Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) has announced that he will be a part of a 24-person committee tasked with implementing a refined system for Juvenile justice, which will include people from all across the system including judges, defense attorneys and public officials. The specific focus of Goyke’s committee will be to receive applications from Wisconsin counties and give grants to those counties to fund their housing needs for juvenile offenders. The State of Wisconsin will still be in charge of supervising the most violent and dangerous juveniles and the State will utilize a revamped Mendota Treatment Center to house those offenders. But the main bulk of juvenile offenders will be housed closer to their homes in the counties from which they came. (Madison 365, WI, 7/20/18)

Too Young For Juvie? California Legislature Looking At Raising Minimum Age For Trials – Senator Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Senator Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, are authors of the bill. Senate Bill 439 would exclude children ages 11 and younger from prosecution in juvenile court in order to protect young children from the negative impacts of the justice system and to promote their rights and well-being through other alternatives, according to officials. “The youngest teens in our system need to be held accountable for their actions,” said Lara. “But they also require age-appropriate services, to rehabilitate and grow into healthy and mature adults.” (KHTS, CA, 7/18/18)

Public Defense

Agreement between East Baton Rouge prosecutors, public defenders will help avoid ‘trial by ambush’ – East Baton Rouge prosecutors and public defenders on Monday announced an agreement that will standardize the process of releasing discovery information during a criminal case. Traditionally lawyers on both sides have to file pleadings requesting the release of specific information. But the new agreement will eliminate the need for those pleadings, according to a news release from District Attorney Hillar Moore III. Both parties said the agreement will allow for a more open exchange of information and prevent “trial by ambush” situations, according to the release. (The Advocate, LA, 7/23/18)

Can’t Afford a Lawyer? – In 2017, 70 percent of low-income households in America had some kind of civil legal problem, ranging from divorce to a housing dispute, according to the nonprofit Legal Services Corporation. But in the civil system, there is no guaranteed right to representation. That means families living near the poverty line handle the vast majority of those cases — 86 percent — with little or no professional legal help to guide them. The line between the civil and criminal justice system is blurry: Unpaid fines, fees and child support can land someone in jail. It may take a civil lawsuit to fight the fallout of a criminal conviction or clear a record. And a criminal arrest can lead to an eviction hearing and homelessness. That overlap makes it even more important for someone to have legal help in civil matters, advocates say. (The Marshall Project, 7/18/18)

Louisiana, New York and Missouri take legal action against unconstitutional public defense – Across the nation, public defense systems are struggling in a tangle of extreme workloads, insufficient funding and unreasonable trial wait times. For Louisiana, Missouri and New York, enough is enough. Public defense advocates are suing their states for more funding, and many public defenders are refusing to take on new cases. What is portrayed in the movies and television isn’t what’s really happening,” Carlston said. “People are not being treated equally, their voices are being silenced and perhaps suing will encourage news outlets to publicize the issue more and hopefully result in increased funding.” (The Daily Universe, UT, 7/19/18)

Veterans Treatment Courts

Scott Sexton: Specialized Forsyth County Veterans Treatment Court holds first, and maybe last, graduation ceremony – By any measure, the local Veterans Treatment Court has been a success. The graduation and rightful celebration of the six veterans prove it. Funding for the court (and others like it elsewhere in North Carolina) was suspended in a political and legal dispute between federal and state governments over the designation of sanctuary cities, enforcement of immigration policy and other special conditions required by the U.S. Justice Department. At the close of the ceremony, James Prosser, the assistant secretary for veterans affairs with the N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in Raleigh, congratulated the graduates and pledged to support efforts to find money to keep the program going. “We’ll work to do what we can to preserve the funding,” Prosser said. “This was the first graduation, and Lord, we don’t want it to be the last.” (Winston-Salem Journal, NC, 7/18/18)