A Muskingum County Court Targets Crime By Offering Addicts Redemption
Jeff Stevens got caught shoplifting to get drug money.
His addiction began when he dropped out of school and began experimenting with drugs and getting into trouble. Stevens started out with marijuana, but then he started taking pills. When taking pills orally no longer satisfied him, Stevens progressed to crushing and snorting them. As his addiction grew, so did his need for stronger highs.
“It’s been a long, long fight,” Stevens says.
A probation officer offered Stevens an opportunity that would lead him to sobriety – Miracles In Recovery And Clean Living Everyday, also referred to as the M.I.R.A.C.L.E. drug court. Stevens began his court-supervised treatment in June 2016.
“We developed the court because we understand that substance use plays a large role in many crimes, which also impacts many lives,” Matthew Gibson, a Muskingum County Court probation officer, says.
Representatives from the Muskingum County Court Probation Department, Genesis Outpatient Services, Allwell Behavioral Health, Muskingum Behavioral Health and Transitions collaborate to make the program work.
Miami-Dade County in Florida formed the nation’s first drug court in 1989. The United States now has more than 3,100 drug courts, according to the Office of Justice Programs.
The Supreme Court of Ohio gave the drug court its final specialized docket certification in January, which means the court can now apply for and receive grant money from the state. Specialized dockets refer to sessions of court that approach cases through therapeutic and treatment-based lenses.
By offering court supervised treatment, the M.I.R.A.C.L.E. court aims to address the underlying causes of crimes and keep offenders from committing them again.
The court recently received a $100,000 grant. That money can cover job training, housing deposits and other needs. Participants who have shown progress may be rewarded with additional help, and it makes a meaningful difference in their lives, Judge Scott Rankin, who serves as the specialized dockets judge, says.
“In the past, there would never be any money to help with a housing cost or to keep a utility on,” Rankin says.
About 60 people have entered the program so far, and four have completed it. Gibson says he expects three more will graduate by May.
But Rankin says people shouldn’t necessarily measure the program’s efficacy based on the graduation rate.
“Even the people who have not made it through the program have made positive changes in their lives,” Rankin says.
Rankin calls the program the most rewarding part of his job. And by enlisting in the program, offenders do not get out of jail free.
Individuals receive treatment tailored to their needs. Counselors evaluate participants to determine those needs and how to meet them. When Stevens entered the program, he received counseling four days a week and had weekly check-ins with the court. Rankin says participants in the program learn the coping skills they need to keep them from re-entering the criminal justice system.
“They’re not choosing the easy way out,” Rankin says.
Participants of the program are subject to a curfew, random drug testing and house checks and individual or group counseling. Any failure to comply results in up to 30 days in jail at Rankin’s discretion.
Probation programs such as the M.I.R.A.C.L.E. court have proven cost-effective.
Despite the treatment costs, the lower rate of recidivism among participants helped drug courts save about $5,000 to $6,000 per offender on average, the National Institute of Justice’s Multisite Adult Drug Court Evaluation found. Participants also had fewer rearrests than comparable offenders, according to the evaluation.
Stevens advises people in the same place he was in to be willing to open up, and that they too have to want sobriety for it to work.
“This program is a real good program I owe my life to it, honestly,” he says.