Drug Court Could Come to Olmsted County

Posted at: 02/23/2013 8:57 PM
Updated at: 02/23/2013 10:41 PM
By: Brittany Lewis

(ABC 6 News) -- It's a push to keep local criminals from re-offending, and now a drug court could soon open up in Olmsted County.

Representative Kim Norton will present a bill on Tuesday that would provide funding for the court.

Representatives Tina Liebling, Duane Quam, and Mike Benson are also on board.

"There's kind of this saying in courts or in specialty courts that they only ask them to change one thing and that's everything. So they literally ask them to change their entire lives," said Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem.

There are 38 Operational Drug Courts in Minnesota. A bill authored by Representative Kim Norton would make Olmsted County, drug court number 39.

"The recidivism rates are low, the success rates are high and really that's what we want out of our courts. The idea of courts aren't just put people in jail and say it's expensive, it doesn't help, the individual nor the individual's family, nor society," said Norton.

Drug courts focus on people who are dependent on alcohol or other drugs and who are at high risk of committing crimes over and over. The courts work to rehabilitate them through treatment, frequent drug tests, and regular check-in court appearances.

"These are often for minor crimes, sometimes, small possession, or persons who really have an addiction that needs to be dealt with and punishment through court, typical court system isn't always the best for that individual," said Norton.

"Generally, drug sellers and people committing violent crimes are not allowed in a drug court. Those people need to go to prison," said Ostrem.

A June 2012 Minnesota statewide adult drug court evaluation found drug courts have a significant impact on reducing recidivism and participants make improvements in things like education, employment, and housing.

"Some of these people, if you can get down to the drug behavior, the drug dependency, you can resolve all the other behaviors too," said Ostrem.

The hope that rehabilitation and accountability will keep the offender from doing the crime again. Along with the bill for a drug court, Representative Norton will present another bill on Tuesday that would bring an entirely new judiciary unit to Olmsted County.

She says this is something the county has been deserving of for many years.