Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building
361 Rowe Boulevard
F Todd Silver 410-260-1488
Sally Rankin 410-260-1488
(ELLICOTT CITY, MD—August 25, 2004) Howard County District Court has established a new drug treatment court, creating the 17th drug court in the state. The court’s first session was held August 11, as defendants who were enrolled in the program appeared before Howard County District Judge Neil E. Axel.
Three defendants have been accepted
into the program, while the state’s attorney’s office is screening other
prospective participants. Defendants who are eligible must have severe
drug problems, but they cannot have a history of violence, a serious felony
or a handgun or weapon offense. Defendants who enroll will receive intense
treatment and counseling, and must provide status reports to the court
every two weeks. There, the judge can reward them for progress or give
them sanctions – from warnings to community service and jail time.
“They felt this was probably the most effective strategy for combatting drug addiction,” said Judge Becker. “While it may involve different circumstances and different drugs – people may be breaking into pharmacies in Oklahoma to steal OxyContin while in the big cities it’s more heroin and cocaine – there is really a national problem out there that these drug courts are addressing.”
Judge Becker has spent the past three years collaborating on the program with the county health department, the public defender’s office and the state’s attorney’s office. The part-time drug court is expected to grow to include 10 to 15 defendants, said Bobbie Fine, the program’s part-time coordinator.
“We hope eventually to go full-time,” said Fine, adding that she already is seeing the rewards of the program. “One of the women had me about in tears. She was so excited and she said she felt so blessed to have this opportunity to turn her life around.”
Maryland established its first drug
treatment court 10 years ago in Baltimore City. Eleven more are in the
planning stages. In 2003, the Maryland Drug Treatment Court Commission
was established to provide support to jurisdictions planning, implementing
and operating drug courts.
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