"One of the philosophies behind my Jail and Prison Ministry program is something called restorative justice,” said a Catholic church deacon who coordinates that ministry through the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, “and that's to try and repair the harm that's done to the community by crime and also the families and the individuals, the offenders themselves, and I think drug court is one of the best examples of a restorative justice program."
Unfortunately, the annual grant for the Delaware and Dubuque County Drug Court ran out on June 30. It only remains in operation because the ministry raises the $45,000 needed through local Catholic parishes.
The parishes came through, but the program is far too valuable -- both to the offenders and the taxpayers -- for its funding to rely on private donations. Drug court was founded in 2008 as an alternative sentencing program geared toward keeping people charged with state-level, non-violent drug crimes out of jail and in the workforce through treatment and supervision.
As the deacon points out, Iowa’s prisons are already crowded with drug offenders, so alternative sentencing programs like this one are beneficial to the taxpayer. They also allow the offenders to remain productive members of society, face the family challenges they’ve created, and keep those families together while the offenders get clean.
Participants work closely with drug abuse counselors at the Substance Abuse Services Center and focus on remaining drug free, stabilizing their relationships and obtaining gainful employment. Each Thursday at the Dubuque County Courthouse, a judge meets with around a dozen drug court participants to assess how well they’ve complied with the program requirements and their progress toward their goals.
Many participants are able to turn their lives around after years of destructive behavior related to drug crimes. One participant, a 33-year-old with a 17-year-old son, had been in and out of jail since 16 as a result of drug addiction. She says the supervision and accountability at a weekly meeting before a judge made her drug treatment more effective, and she has been successful.
"I have gotten guardianship back of my son since I've been in this program," she told a reporter from KWWL. "He lives with me full time now."
We need more successes like hers, and the drug court offers something a jail cell often can’t -- a way back to a stable, productive life.
Source: KWWL.com, "Life-changing drug court in Dubuque faces uncertain future," Becca Habegger, Oct. 31, 2013