During a commencement ceremony in late March, Hennepin County Drug Court recognized 34 graduates who overcame addiction and abstained from repeating the behaviors that brought them to court.
Drug Court aims to increase public safety by identifying and intervening to break the cycle of chemical dependency and crime. The voluntary program works with nonviolent adult offenders who are chemically dependent.
Gina Brandt, Drug Court presiding judge, said she is deeply humbled and honored to work on the Model Drug Court Team with such talented and dedicated professionals who work tirelessly every day to ensure participants have a pathway to success.
“The Drug Court Team members have committed themselves to personally working toward lowering criminal recidivism rates, drastically reducing illegal drug use, ensuring successful completion of chemical dependency programs and ultimately reshaping the community with jobs, education and stable housing,” Brandt said. “The many accomplishments of the graduates of Hennepin County’s Model Drug Court Program make Hennepin County and the State of Minnesota, both better places to live.”
Breaking the cycle of addiction
Drug Court involves the coordinated efforts of the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, law enforcement, social services, probation and treatment specialists to identify and intervene with chemically-dependent offenders. Participants engaged in treatment and were rewards progress for meeting goals and sanctions noncompliant behavior. Drug Court participants receive ongoing judicial supervision from the court, are placed under supervision, undergo frequent drug testing and engage in long-term chemical dependency treatment.
“Drug Court really surrounded me with the love and care and acceptance of what was going on in my life,” said Lindsay Arf, drug court graduate. “I really mean this when I’m saying I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Drug Court.”
Drug Court also assists participants in enhancing life-skills through services, such as job training, education and family counseling.
"Drug Court graduation reminds us that a public health approach to treating addiction is desperately needed in the criminal justice system,” said Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty. “It’s wonderful to see the sense of pride and accomplishment on the faces of the graduates. They know that they now have control over their lives and can go on to live productive, healthy lives.”
The program shifts the way courts are handling certain offenders. Research shows that this approach has proven more effective than traditional court strategies at reducing repeat offenses.
The court includes professionals from Hennepin County Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation, Hennepin County Health and Human Services, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office, Minneapolis Police Department, Fourth Judicial District Court, Hennepin County Medical Center, area treatment providers and local partners.