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Alger judge creates new drug court

January 22, 2008
Mining Journal
MUNISING — In an effort to reduce crimes related to drug or alcohol addiction, 93rd District Court Judge Mark Luoma has created a drug treatment court in Alger and Schoolcraft counties.

Michigan law allows for the establishment of such courts, subject to specific guidelines. The court program is set to begin operating before March 1.

Luoma’s court involves a team approach that integrates alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice system case processing.

The team involved includes defense attorneys, prosecutors, treatment service providers and law enforcement officers. The purpose of the special drug/operating while intoxicated court is to reduce crime related to drug and alcohol addiction by providing a court-supervised treatment program.

“Most crimes that are committed involve drugs or alcohol in some manner,” Luoma said in a written statement. “Many of these offenders end up coming before the court again and again. There is clearly a need to reduce this problem.”

The special team is trained to operate the drug/OWI court. Luoma said the team uses a non-adversarial approach to protect public safety, while protecting any participants’ rights to due process.

Team members use a coordinated strategy with graduated penalties and rewards to govern the court’s responses to compliance of the participants.

Partnerships are forged between the team and other drug courts, public agencies and community-based organizations, Luoma said.

Those participating in the program are evaluated to determine individual needs for a range of alcohol, drug and other related treatment and rehabilitation services. The team meets and then determines which services would best serve each participant.

Participants are then monitored through frequent alcohol and drug testing to ensure abstinence and through regular communication with service providers.

“Ongoing judicial supervision and interaction is vital to the successful completion of the program,” Luoma said. “Participants’ progress will be measured with identifiable criteria and the participant will be rewarded with good effort and sanctioned with failure.”

Drug or alcohol offenders who are charged with violent crimes are statutorily ineligible for the program.

Luoma said he’s studied the concept of a drug and alcohol treatment court for several years, including the operation of similar courts in other jurisdictions.

“By doing this the right way, we will even qualify for state or federal funding to assist the court in enhancing the program,” Luoma said. “However, implementation of a drug/OWI court, consistent with the state and federal guidelines is a prerequisite.”

In Michigan, there are currently 76 drug or OWI courts. They include 32 adult drug courts, 19 sobriety courts, 15 juvenile drug courts, six family dependency courts and four tribal healing-to-wellness courts.

“Our main goal is to break the cycles of addiction and crime,” Luoma said. “We need to use our limited resources as effectively as possible so that we do not lose any of our young people.”



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