Cass County granted funding for sobriety court

Published 11:06 pm Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cass County District Court has announced its request for grant monies to implement a sobriety court was successful.

Sobriety court, often referred to as a drug court, is an evidence-based problem-solving court, with a focus on intensive monitoring for program compliance.

This approach keeps non-violent offenders in treatment long enough for it to work through frequent and random drug testing, swift and appropriate responses for program compliance or non-compliance and regular appearances before the judge where they are held accountable for meeting their obligations to the court, society, themselves and their families.

Implementation of Cass County Sobriety Court is the result of a year-long planning and training effort in concert with the U.S. Bureau of Justice, the State of Michigan Court Administrative Office and the Office of Highway Safety Planning.

Cass County Sobriety Court is based on 20 years of research and evidence finding that this approach is the most effective justice intervention for treating drug-addicted people resulting in reduced drug use and crime.

Judge Stacey Rentfrow said Monday: “We are all aware of the need to protect society and hold the defendant accountable, but we often do so without focusing on affecting long-term change in that person so they do not re-offend. 

“The long term change piece is very important because 85 to 95 percent of addicted prisoners relapse upon release from jail and engage in behaviors that endanger the innocent members of society,” she said.

Problem-solving courts have proven to be a wise use of limited criminal justice resources. 

National statistics show that 75 percent of defendants who successfully complete a sobriety court program never see another pair of handcuffs.

For every $1 invested in this approach, taxpayers save $3.36.    

Formation of Sobriety Court has been a collaborative effort between Cass County District Court, Cass County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, Woodlands Behavioral Healthcare Network, Cass County Public Defenders, Cass County Office of the Sheriff, Cass County Community Corrections and the Cass County Jail.

“This group recognized the need for a more involved approach in the supervision and treatment of addicted individuals. Prosecuting and incarcerating the same individuals over and over again does not address the addiction which in turn does not reduce recidivism,” Rentfrow said.

Cass County Sobriety Court is currently in operation and its continuation is possible with the grant monies recently awarded by the State of Michigan Court Administrative Office and the Office of Highway Safety Planning.