Clearfield could be the next county in Pennsylvania to establish a drug court. Although, there’s some disagreement over how it would operate.
We spoke with some of the county commissioners and the district attorney about this.
Two of the Clearfield County Commissioners told 6 News on Wednesday this idea was prompted by the recent settlement of a 2018 suit against big pharmaceutical companies. Clearfield and other counties will receive funds from this.
“Not just for this year, but we’ll be getting some funding from this for 18 years,” Clearfield County Commissioner Dave Glass told 6 News. “So, there’s a big chunk up front, but then, you know, one of the concerns I know the court has had in years passed is, well, if you get a one- or two-year grant, what happens the end of the one or two years, here’s a case where we can feel pretty confident of at least a five- to 10-year program.”
According to the Pennsylvania Association of Treatment Court Professionals, the first treatment court in the United States was a drug court launched in 1989, in Miami- Dade County, Florida. This was in response to the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. Today, every U.S. state and territory has treatment courts.
1997 saw Philadelphia start the first adult drug court in Pennsylvania. And as of 2020, 51 Pennsylvania counties have established treatment courts.
Glass said a big benefit is that they’re “actually treating people with opioid addiction, theoretically before they get into the criminal justice system and trying to keep them out of jail — or if they’ve been in jail, to keep them from going back.”
“That’s one of the biggest problems that we have, not just here, but statewide is recidivism people going to jail over and over again,” he also said.
“The statistics are out there, recidivism rate drops for these individuals that go through a drug court program and completed, and that benefits not only the individuals to become successful members of society get outta the criminal justice system, but also it saves the taxpayer’s money paying for their incarceration and treatment inside the system,”
Glass said the only obstacle he knows of, at this point, is that the president judge has to sign off on it, since it has to run through the court system. And the judge has pushed against the proposal.
“And most of the prison board members I talk to are on board because, frankly, it’ll help reduce our theoretically reduce our prison population,” said Glass.
“The judge wanted to make sure we had our ducks in a row,” said Sayers. “His initial concern was that we had the money in place. He didn’t want it to be a program that only existed for a year or two and then the funds dried up. Well that we fixed that problem with this opioid settlement money. Now the other issue that he has raised is that he wants the program to be run through the da’s office instead of through the court. However, it is called a drug court. So, we need the court board in order to administer the program.”
We reached out to Judge Frederic Ammerman’s office Wednesday. We’re told the judge doesn’t oppose the court but disagrees with how it’s been proposed to operate. His office told us he’s working on a more in-depth statement.
Ultimately, the commissioners said the issue shouldn’t be so partisan.
“Obviously people who’ve committed serious crimes, we’re not saying those people shouldn’t be in jail. But what we are concerned about, or at least what I’m concerned about, is people whose main issue is a drug addiction. And we throw them in jail and expect this them to magically get better,”