Over the past 12 years more than 650 people graduated from the Boone County Drug Court. Drug court graduates and county drug court officials talk about the process.
By Rachel Levin (Columbia, MO)
Over the past 12 years more than 650 people graduated from the Boone County Drug Court. Drug courts target the cause of drug use as opposed to sentencing the way a traditional court does. They seek to help offenders by getting rid of the factors that made them want use to drugs in the first place. This means helping them find jobs and housing and earning an education.
When an offender begins drug court they come in once a week and write a response to a question such as, “Why are you in drug court?” As they progress participants need to come to court less and less until they graduate. Offenders are also held responsible for random drug testing. Participant Hazel Williams says the drug court process has helped her be a better mother to her three children.
“What I was doing at first wasn’t good for me. It was taking away from all my money first of all. Since I’ve been in drug court and not been doing drugs I have money all the time just to do random things. Things that I wasn’t able to do, buy my kids more stuff more tings for my house and it actually feels good being drug free.”
Williams goes to drug court in between getting off work and picking her daughter up from elementary school. Drug Court Judge Christine Carpenter says she and her staff work to encourage people like Williams to make a change.
“Nobody gets paid extra to do this. Nobody gets paid extra to worry about this on a Saturday or a Friday or to do all the work that we do to maintain personal contact with our participants. Everybody does it because they know it works and it’s the right thing to do.”
The National Drug Court Institute recently named the Boone County Drug Court a mentor court. It will be an example for other drug courts, and team members from Boone County will help other drug courts improve their methods. Drug court administrator Mike Princivalli sees this as opportunity not only to help other courts grow, but for the court itself to grow.
“Even though we’re training others, I feel that this will refocus what we’re trying to do. We also will be a part of new training type modalities as a part of this thing, so we could be trying new things, which will allow us to again grow. Just become a better team ourselves at the same time teaching others.”
The team started their duties as mentors in July and have already fielded questions from drug courts in states like Maine and California.