Monroe City Court will add a path to rehabilitation through community court

Monroe City Court will add a rehabilitation path

MONROE— This spring, the city’s municipal court will implement a therapeutic, intervention-based community court program.
Community courts offer low-level, non-violent felons with substance use disorders or other behavioral health issues a pathway to treatment as a condition of probation. Qualified defendants have the opportunity to participate in a rehabilitation program during their arraignment hearing.
Monroe City Court Judge Jessica Ness said community court would give offenders faster resolution compared to criminal court, connect individuals to needed resources, and in doing so, reduce crime rates and save money. money to taxpayers.

Judge Jessica Ness

Monroe Community Court plans to launch April 1. Ness said the start date could be sooner than that, depending on how quickly they can get organized. She said the community court is a collaborative effort between the courts, the Monroe Police Department, prosecutors, public defenders and social workers to reduce crime and hold offenders accountable with compassion for the state of the individual.
Cmdt. Paul Ryan of the Monroe Police Department said the police department is optimistic this model will help people facing significant life challenges.
“We look forward to partnering with Community Court,” Ryan said in an interview. “Our community outreach officer and assigned social worker have had a good working relationship with the court, prosecutor and public defender, and our work with the community court will be a continuation of those efforts.”
A therapeutic court targets the reason for nonviolent crime with treatment and social services, unlike a traditional criminal justice system that responds to all crimes with punitive measures, Ness explained.
Ness can only require treatment for substance use disorder as a condition of probation; it does not have the power, before the trial, to order treatment or to require the cooperation of a social worker.
The court cannot order treatment or any condition related to a crime until the matter is resolved or under the conditions of probation. A community court also has the power to order a person to enroll in state health insurance or housing assistance, obtain state identification, or work for a GED.
The program involves finding the person’s social service needs, such as addiction treatment, housing, a GED, public health insurance, or food assistance. A defendant must be referred to the services at least twice before being tried by the ordinary criminal justice system. Upon successful completion of the Community Court Program, charges will be dropped.
Ness said the time for resolution in community court takes three to 12 months, compared to one to two years in criminal court.
There are regular check-ins between community court participants and a court team that includes administrators and a counsellor. Treatment plans and other conditions will be reviewed at periodic hearings under judicial supervision. If the offender does not complete the community court program, they return to the traditional criminal route.
The case is continued for three, six, nine or 12 months while the person receives social services through the court resource centre.
In December, the city council approved the receipt of a state grant to establish the community court.
“We are all wondering about the right course of action in the face of the homelessness crisis. I think that’s the right approach to deal with it,” City Council member Jason Gamble said at the council meeting. “I have often said personally; I think it’s inhumane that we have people on the street who are suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, and who are not in rehab.
Monroe Police Chief Jeff Jolley told the council that the court “also fits well with our concept of problem-oriented policing and goes even deeper to deal with offenders to address the root issues, the root of the problem and trying to fix it sorts of things that are often the result of mental illness or drug use or homelessness and actually trying to address those issues and direct them to resources.
The $158,779 grant from the State Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) covers the costs of the community court for its first two years, city administrator Deborah Knight said. The city will work on the budget for years three and four.
Ness said this AOC grant is the first time a grant has been awarded to a local level court for a therapeutic court. Grants are usually awarded to higher-level courts, Ness said.
A community court in Monroe also makes it a rarity among municipal courts serving communities of less than 25,000 people.
In a 10-year study of drug court outcomes, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) tracked data for 6,500 Multnomah County Drug Court offenders from 1991 to 2001 from drug court pre-plea in Portland, Oregon. Their research found that participants had fewer new arrests than similar drug offenders in the same county over a five-year period. The study also found that the reduction in recidivism ranged from 17% to 26% due to designated judges and changes in therapeutic court programs over time. In a two-year follow-up study in Kansas City, Missouri and Pensacola, Florida, NIJ researchers found that felony re-arrest rates dropped from 40% to 12% after therapeutic court was established.
The NIJ findings also support Ness’s claim to save taxpayers money. The study found that the cost of treating an individual in community courts was $1,392 less per defendant than in criminal court and represented an average public savings of $67.44 per participant.
Funding for Therapeutic Courts is incorporated into what is called the Blake decision of the State Supreme Court. Currently, drug possession charges are reduced to misdemeanors rather than felonies until July 1, 2023, and unless the law is changed by then, they will be fully decriminalized after that date. Possession of drug paraphernalia has been decriminalized with no sunset clause in place.
In 2016, Shannon Blake of Spokane was arrested for drug possession. Blake said she was unaware of the small packet of crystal meth in the coin pocket of a pair of thrift store jeans she received from a friend. She appealed the case. In 2021, a majority of the state Supreme Court determined that the state’s drug crime law is unconstitutional because it does not provide an exception for defendants who unknowingly possess drugs. .

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