Court System Helping Opioid Addicts

With the national crisis of opioids addiction in the United States, there comes an unlikely institution to help addicts stop their dependency on drugs.

Chris Simkins from Voice of America*, reported last week how a Miami drug court judge is helping those interested in getting their lives back and becoming a productive member of the society to just do that.

Judge Jeri Beth Cohen sees the possibilities in the lives of those struggling with addiction and shares her optimism with them by offering a chance to have their drug-related non-violent criminal records erased provided they follow the rules she set as the conditions for the erasure of the record.

Judge Cohen says the reason behind this act of understanding is the fact that she believes opioid addiction is a terminal illness and the affected person is either going to jail or end up dead. There are, according to her, an increasing number of young men and women generally between the ages of 21-30 and Caucasian for the most part that could be helped to beat their addiction. One of those who took the opportunity to stay out of the criminal system is Paul R. Coles, an Iraqi war veteran in Miami, FL, and a former heroin user. His drug abuse was due to a surgery he had after his unit hit an IED in Iraq. He completed the year-long program and had his felony drug charge expunged from the record. He, like 75 percent of Drug Court graduates has remained arrest-free at-least two years after leaving the system.

Mimi-Dade County has changed its approach to dealing with drug-related arrests from its original approach when it first launched its drug court, years ago facing the crack cocaine epidemic. The focus during that crisis was mostly on jailing people for criminal conduct. It didn’t do a lot in reducing crime at that time, as people were arrested would take a plea or go to jail then get out and get arrested again. The goal this time around is, not to repeat that cycle again and by providing treatment, help addicts get the help they need. Judge Cohen says that there are many variables involved in every case. Variables such as trauma, untreated mental illness, and severity of the drug usage and the impact on their families. A treatment plan based on an individual’s risk and needs is what eventually proves successful to get people off of addiction.