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How Virginia courts are helping inmates get sober and stay sober

Prison can be a revolving door for addicts who take a wrong turn trying to feed their addiction. The lack of resources offered to inmates suffering from addiction does little to nothing to ensure these offenders will not return to jail. Sadly, this is the typical story echoing throughout our prison systems today.

Virginia, however, is trying to write a new chapter in the stories of addicts post-release. With their new revolutionary program, drug courts now offer treatment to non-violent substance abusers. Those who qualify for the program are set-up with a team of court officials, treatment professionals and a commonwealth attorney to establish an individualized treatment plan to help them overcome their addiction.

But wait-who is eligible for court-ordered treatment?

Think it sounds too good to be true? Well, it might be. Unfortunately, not everyone will qualify for the program. To be eligible and remain enrolled in the program, participants must meet specific criteria and comply with strict conditions.

In short, offenders may be eligible if they don't have violent criminal record or convictions related to drug distribution, and if they have never had a jail or prison sentence suspended for 18 months or longer. After enrollment in the program, they must adhere to specific terms such as holding down a job, random drug tests and reside with non-drug users. The court may also require completion of community service and homework as assigned by treatment professionals.

Does the treatment actually work?

The results of the program are startling. Offenders who complete the program are 50% less likely to re-offend for drug-related crimes than are those who do not complete the program, according to a study by the Virginia Judicial System. It seems as if there may be a solution to reducing the number of addicts incarcerated after all.

Moving forward

Securing ongoing funding for the program is currently in the works. The program is anticipated to increase enrollment with the governor proposing $76 million be carved out in the 2019-2020 budget. These funds would go towards the continuation and growth of the program. With increased funding, more and more re-offenders will have the opportunity to get sober, stay sober and lead lawful lives.

If you are charged with a drug-related crime, you may want to seek the advice of an experienced attorney to discuss the options available to you.

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