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Our view: McHenry County Drug Court 
a big success

While drug addiction is a lifelong struggle, a one-year sober anniversary for an addict is a milestone of significance.

Today marks a milestone in the local battle against drug addiction as McHenry County’s Drug Court completes its first year in existence. So far, 41 repeat drug offenders have gone through the program.

The participants aren’t just kids who made a mistake where a lesson could be learned by paying a fine, a term of supervision or probation, or even a short jail sentence. These are individuals who have had several run-ins with law enforcement for one reason: drug abuse. Most of the offenders report heroin addiction.

Illegal drug use is a criminal problem and addiction is a societal problem, both of which need to be addressed. But as much as traditional court systems attempt to address treatment issues, they often are unsuccessful, particularly when it comes to individuals with severe addiction.

Those offenders need more than monthly court appearances and occasional probation appointments. Through no fault of the efforts of criminal court employees, those courts are simply not designed to deliver the intense supervision needed to make a difference.

The first year of the county drug court has been a success based on recidivism rates alone. The first year participants in McHenry County had combined for 338 arrests before entering drug court. Since, there have been only five arrests among the participants.

Because recidivism rates are greatly reduced through drug court programs, costs to taxpayers also decline. It costs between $20,000 and $30,000 a year to incarcerate an inmate at the county jail. That’s compared to between $4,000 and $12,000 for an offender to participate in drug court.

Congratulations to Scott Block, director of special projects for McHenry County, McHenry County Judge Michael Feetterer, the defendants, lawyers and court service personnel who participated in the drug court’s first year.

We’re confident that many more successful years are to follow.

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