One of the main obstacles that members of the Carbon County Community Drug Coalition has been facing as they attempt to bring a drug court to the county has been funding for the operation. However, that may have been solved in one fell swoop with a phone call last week.
A "pork barrel" bill that the United States Senate failed to pass early last year, but did pass just before Christmas, provided money for various things and numerous Senate members district. Some of that money came to Utah through the office of Senator Bob Bennett. A little over $1.2 million was slated to be used for methamphetamine drug interdiction and clean up in a five county region in southeastern Utah which includes Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan and Kane counties. While the money was slated to help local law authorities to set up programs and equipment to take care of the aftermath of meth labs, Carbon had already solved this problem with the purchase of Hazmat equipment and a truck in the last couple of years.
"I made a call to Senator Bennett's office to see if we could use the money we were going to get for a drug court instead and they called me back and told me it was fine to do that," said County Commissioner Mike Milovich on Monday afternoon.
Carbon's share of the money, $250,000, is a little under what members of the coalition were trying to put together through other funding sources to start a drug court. The money will arrive this fall.
Meth is a large problem in Carbon County with figures showing the area leads the state in problems with the drug.
According to Naranon, 60 to 80 percent of incarcerations are directly or indirectly related to drugs and alcohol. Whether someone is convicted of possession or distribution or committed a crime while under the influence. Since the total number of people in jail or prison in the United States now exceeds two million, the cost to society is outrageous, considering the average is greater than $20,000 per inmate per year.
For many years our nation's judicial system has tried to use probation, deferred sentences or community sentencing for lesser offenses and first-time offenders, and parole for good behavior and to make room for new offenders.
In an effort to more effectively deal with drug-related charges, the first drug court program was established in 1989. In the last 15 years there have been approximately half a million participants in drug court programs across the country, which have a retention rate of greater than 70 percent and an average recidivism rate of 27.5 percent two years after completion.
According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), "As drug courts have proven their effectiveness in controlling both the drug usage and criminality of drug-using offenders, communities successfully have expanded drug court programs to probationers, including drug-using offenders charged with non-drug offenses."
The fact is that quick and fast courts, that deal with drug offenders on a weekly basis are more effective than tradtional ways of dealing with drug problems. Local officials who deal with the court that is presently in force in Emery County say the system has been very effective with individuals there.