Citing labor intensive costs, Swift County ends drug court participation

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Despite what looked to be a successful program in helping people turn their lives around, Swift County’s experiment with the 8th Judicial District’s Drug court is ending.

County commissioners voted at their Aug. 1 meeting to end participation in the drug court due to its time intensive demands and increasing costs for a relatively few individuals.

“Staffing, time, and funding for all departments, including probation, human services, law enforcement, and prosecution are being reviewed, as increased budget requests are being evaluated due to work load increases across the county,” a memo to the board on the program stated.

Because of the intensive staff required to work with those in drug court, Swift County could only handle two individuals at a time.

The county’s participation in the drug court was approved back in 2014 with the goal of breaking the cycle of chemical addiction and crime that would often result in the same people being arrested over and over again, then rotating through the courts and probation services.

Those participating in drug court were involved in a program lasting 18 to 24 months that brought together all the stakeholders dealing with a chemically addicted person - law enforcement, probation services, the county attorney’s office, the defense attorney, the judge, human services, and anyone else playing a key role in the person’s case.

Individuals are tested for drugs a minimum of twice a week while in the program. They have very strict curfews and compliance checks. There are goals set every two weeks and participants are expected to tell the court how they have met those goals at their next meeting two weeks down the line. Judges assigned to the drug court work specifically with the individuals, presiding over updates on their progress.

Those sentenced to drug court still face a criminal sentence that could lead to jail time if they don’t fully cooperate. Often they still have to pay fines and make restitution to someone they might have stolen from.

The promise of saving money by getting repeat offenders out of the law enforcement and court system was one of the motivators for agreeing to participate in the drug court. For every dollar invested in drug court, national statistics show there is a $2.21 payback.

But that savings wasn’t enough based on the few participants in the program and the intensive staff time required....


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