Board approves grants

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, October 20, 2015

While seen by many as place of punishment, for some offenders, a courtroom can serve as a place where they can receive their first chance to turn their life and fortunes around.

In Cass County, several specialized court programs exist that give people the tools and opportunities they need to break drug addiction or eliminate habits that lead to criminal behavior.

These programs include the county’s drug treatment court or its Swift and Sure probation sanctions, which provide alternative ways of rehabilitation over straight incarceration.

Last week, the county board of commissioners took action to ensure that a number of these specialized programs receive the funding they need to continue serving the public.

The board approved four grant funding proposals, totaling nearly $600,000, for the county court system during its meeting Thursday evening in Cassopolis. The grants were:

• A $42,000 Michigan Drug Court Grant, which runs from October of this year until Sept. 30, 2016.

• A $70,000 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, which runs from October of this year until Sept. 30, 2016.

• A $274,760 Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program Grant ($32,760 of which will be held for department of corrections personnel), which runs from October of this year until Sept. 30, 2016.

• A $200,000 U.S. Department of Justice Adult Drug Discretionary Grant, which runs from October of this year until Sept. 30, 2017.

Only the U.S. DOJ grant requires a local match from the county, in the amount of $33,000. This funding will be paid in part through a $5 drug testing fee for participants in the court drug program; the remaining dollars will be designated from the salary of the program coordinator, said Cass County Family Court Judge Susan Dobrich.

Dobrich, whose court administers many of these specialized treatment programs, shared some numbers about the effects they are having on participants.

According to the judge, the court’s Family Treatment Court has an overall success rate of 62 percent, 10 percent higher that the national average; the Adult Treatment Court has an 80 percent graduation rate, with 85 percent of participants not reoffending; Swift and Sure has a 75 percent graduation rate, with 76 percent of graduates not reoffending.

“I think that speaks volumes about what treatment courts can do,” Dobrich said.

The judge also pointed out that state and national agencies have recognized the importance of court treatment, raising the amount of grant money rewarded to county courts, she said.

In terms of their importance to the community, these rehabilitation programs are invaluable at helping former criminals reintegrate back into the society, Dobrich said.

“At one end you have to arrest them and the other you have to save them,” she said. ”Because they [offenders] come back to the community, regardless of what happens.”