Drug Court Graduates Say Goodbye to Founder
What: Drug Court Commencement
When: 4:00 p.m. Thursday, September 26, 2002
Where: Weber Point Events Center, So. Center St. at Miner, Stockton
66 former addicts graduated from Drug Court this year - but the spotlight was on the Drug Court's founder in San Joaquin: Judge Rolleen McIlwrath. Judge McIlwrath plans to retire from the bench November 1, 2002, so this was her last graduation.
"Judge McIlwrath has demonstrated remarkable vision in her creation of a drug court in our county," according to Presiding Judge George Abdallah. "She has worked tirelessly for the program and its participants. Judge McIlwrath will be deeply missed by the court."
"Judge McIlwrath is a truly compassionate person who genuinely believes that there are alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent people involved with drugs and alcohol, says Judge Thomas M. Harrington. "And the success of her Drug Court proves her to be correct."
Graduation ceremonies were highlighted by a tribute to Judge McIlwrath, including a proclamation from the Court, tributes and a song performed by Drug Court alumni. Speakers included Sheriff Baxter Dunn, Hon. Anthony Lucaccini, Hon. Cinda Fox, and Jose Rivera, Medical Group Administrator for Kaiser Permanente
The San Joaquin Drug Court was created by McIlwrath in July, 1995. Participants are sentenced to Drug Court after pleading guilty to either non-violent felonies or misdemeanors. Their successful completion of Drug Court permanently suspends their jail or prison time. 503 individuals have graduated so far, representing a "savings" of 242 years in county jail and 131 years in state prison.
Drug Court Background:
What Happens at Graduation?
A defendant who successfully completes the Drug Court Program will have his or her original jail or prison sentence permanently stayed. Graduation is a recognition of the participants' accomplishments. Post graduation activities include an alumni association, aftercare plans and mentoring projects.
The arresting officers are invited to the graduations. This program is an excellent example of what cooperation between criminal justice agencies can achieve in establishing a swift and fair justice system that results in the most cost-effective adjudication of defendants at the least expense to the taxpayers.
What is a Drug Court?
Drug Court is a special court given the responsibility of select felony and misdemeanor cases involving non-violent drug-using offenders. The program includes frequent random drug testing, judicial and probation supervision, drug treatment counseling, educational and vocational opportunities, and the use of sanctions and incentives.
The Judge is actively involved in supervising drug court offenders; rather than defendant's being placed unsupervised, in a probationary or diversionary program for drug treatment.
There are over 600 drug courts in the nation, about 92 in our state. Each is set up using the guidelines of the Federal Office of Drug Court Policy. After the successful completion of the criminal drug court program, which is a minimum of 12 months, the original sentence is permanently stayed.
How Often Does Drug Court Convene?
Court status hearings are held weekly. A report of each defendant's progress is prepared and given to the judge before the hearings. The judge is notified of clean or dirty urinalysis tests, attendance at counseling and educational classes. Any special circumstances concerning the defendant are included in the judge's progress report.
The Court may increase the frequency of urinalysis testing, order increased attendance or participation in a residential program as a requirement to stay in the program, and may order jail time as a sanction. Terminating the defendant from Drug Court is the final sanction. At any time, the defendant can ask to be terminated from the program and be sentenced to serve the original sentence.
What is the Treatment Program?
A variety of treatment providers are utilized for both residential and outpatient services.
The courts and their treatment providers provide drug intervention programs designed to provide an early opportunity for treatment and a cost effective alternative to traditional criminal case processing. The criteria for program participation has been established cooperatively by the Court, the Public Defender's office, the District Attorney's Office, the Probation Department and local law enforcement officers.
Local law enforcement officers participate as Drug Court Liaison Officers and members of the Drug Court's Law Enforcement Advisory Board. They help supervise the program participants in the community.
Treatment services include:
Clients are responsible for their development and participation in the treatment process. Regular status hearings are held with the Judge, and the Drug Court Team. Status hearings offer the client encouragement for continuing growth. Sanctions are imposed for relapses, use incidents, failure to attend, or if the client regresses.
Clients successfully completing the program will have broken the addiction cycle, maintained employment, and become active, productive members of society.
Chemical Dependency is treated as a primary, chronic, lifelong disease. Group therapy, education, individual counseling, and a community-based approach are the basic tools offered for behavioral changes. AA/NA involvement is stressed as the fundamental tool of lifelong recovery.
Are Violent and/or Serious Offenders Eligible for Drug Court?
No. Almost all Drug Courts exclude offenders charged with sales of drugs, possession for sale of drugs, or other serious offenses.
Funding under the Crime Bill excludes participation by any offender that has been charged with a violent offense or who has a prior conviction for a violent crime, except domestic violence.
Who Pays for Drug Court and What Does it Cost?
Depending on the treatment provider, the participant may pay a minimal fee each week to the provider to aid in the therapeutic aspect as well as to help offset costs.
San Joaquin County Superior Court Drug Courts operate on Federal and State grant money plus "matching funds" from the County and from private businesses and corporations. The program's total cost per person ranges from $1,200 to $3,000 per year, depending on the treatment modality. These costs include treatment and testing for the participant.
Drug Court Location and Hours
Drug Court meets in Department 21 in the Stockton Courthouse, every Thursday beginning at 8:15a.m. The Drug Court Office is located in Room 259, 2nd floor of the Stockton Courthouse (209) 468-2857.