Bell Votes to Cut Funding for the Drug Court

In an effort to balance the state’s budget, Del. Rob Bell voted in favor of eliminating the funding for the Charlottesville/Albemarle Drug Court, Tasha Kates writes in the Daily Progress. Drug courts exist to help drug addicts kick the habit, rather than tossing them in prison, which is both ineffective and a lot more expensive. They’re a big money saver, which is why Sheriff Chip Harding (a Republican, like Del. Bell) is an ardent supporter of them. Since the budget amendment passed with 61% of the vote, this isn’t likely to change.

Cutting the funding for drug courts to save money reminds me of when Governor Mark Warner closed down the liquor stores one day a week to save money; since they’re profitable, that didn’t make much sense.

37 thoughts on “Bell Votes to Cut Funding for the Drug Court”

  1. Passing with a 61% vote indicates that a lot of other delegates besides Bell think this might just be a waste of taxpayers money. Oh, I forgot Bell is republican and liberal loons always like to point out how the republicans vote without presenting the whole picture/story. tsh..tsh..

  2. Sheriff Harding was on the original drug court task force that created the drug court. He is hardly a neutral person to ask. He clearly has in interest in not seeing something he helped to create fail

  3. Good point, Stan. But IMHO, Harding’s claim to fame and name recognition in the sheriff’s election was DNA. DNA this, DNA that, how can I get my name and picture in the paper and on TV one more time with another DNA story? :)
    Now don’t get me wrong, you can’t blame the guy! And the public ate it up! He’ll have a city retirement check coming in each month now, and he’ll have a county retirement check coming in each month. If I was Chip Harding I would already be trying to figure out an angle to get a third or fourth retirement check rolling in each month! The hell with a home, apple pie and a Chevrolet in the driveway… numerous retirement checks is the true American dream! Go Chip!!!!

  4. In some better world a accurate cost/benefit analysis will guide funding cuts. In the meanwhile there will be lots of short term savings with long term costs.

  5. Oh, I forgot Bell is republican and liberal loons always like to point out how the republicans vote without presenting the whole picture/story.

    It’s almost like you didn’t read a word I wrote.

  6. Delegate Bell’s vote comes as no surprise. Last year, at a forum held at the Free Speech Monument on the Downtown Mall, where both Rob Bell and David Toscano reported on the past legislative session, Delegate Bell made clear that he was no fan of the Drug Courts. As I recall, his objection, at that time, was not budgetary, but related to a perceived philosophical problem with running a whole separate court system. I wish my memory served me better in representing Delegate Bell’s postion. I do remember that he acknowledged that his views on the subject were not popular.

  7. Will, if they can show one person they have helped then I support the drug court and its efforts, otherwise, it seems a duplicaton of courts. I can’t think of any druggie or alcoholic who has been talked out of giving up their bad habits. Can you?
    JMHO…

  8. If you had read some of the stories the Daily Progress has written in the past,you’d see it has made a difference in some people’s lives.
    One person staying out of jail or prison because of the Drug Court is one person the taxpayer does not have to pay the costs of his or her incarceration.

  9. Waldo, I don’t know many “former” anythings and especially not a former alcoholic. I try to stay away from the drug addicts. My point being I don’t believe you can talk anyone out of being an alcoholic or drug addict. These are things which you need to resolve for yourself…i.e…see the error in your ways and make a change. JMHO.

  10. if they can show one person they have helped then I support the drug court and its efforts

    Jogger, if you’re serious about looking for somebody who’s been helped by the efforts of the drug court, here’s your link:

    http://tinyurl.com/ba9ghd

    Two individuals both credit the drug court with helping to get them on the right path. Obviously, individuals need to change their own lives, but none of us live our lives in a vacuum and the drug court provides an incentive and structure to encourage that change.

  11. “I can’t think of any druggie or alcoholic who has been talked out of giving up their bad habits. Can you?”

    Quite a few, actually, if you count confrontation with the consequences of their problem as “talk”.

    On the other hand, I doubt there are many people who come out of prison better as citizens than they were going in.

    Prison is a necessary evil, a place we put the most dangerous people in society so they can’t hurt the rest of us. We can hope the experience will reform them, but the numbers aren’t promising. At best it may deter repeat offenses, but drug-use-related crimes (as opposed to dealing-related crimes) are among the least rational and thus the least likely to be deterred.

    Using prison as a tool for addiction recovery and social engineering is a wasteful and counterproductive use of valuable resources, not to mention a personal tragedy for the addict and a serious obstacle to their chance at long-term recovery if they wish to do so.

    OTOH, I don’t know much about the Drug Court itself – is there a reason the same thing can’t be done in the existing courts?

  12. “OTOH, I don’t know much about the Drug Court itself – is there a reason the same thing can’t be done in the existing courts?” Regular courts are set up to dispense with the docket as quickly as possible. They may have over a hundred cases to get through in one day. Drug court has it’s own day and the only clients are those in drug court. The judge, I believe it is Hogshire, listens to the reports of OAR, Region Ten, sometimes a probation office and maybe somebody from the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and possibly Social Services(there’s a lot of record keeping). The judge hears from the client and asks questions. This occurs weekly. If the person has made any infractions of the rules that he has agreed to abide by, a determination by the judge is made right then and there what will be the consequences. Often times, if there are infractions, there will be tough sanctions imposed upon the client in order for him to remain in the program and usually his program time is extended. Sometimes the judge removes him from the program and reinstates the previous court-ordered sanctions (full jail time) or the client voluntarily quits the program and decides to do time. I have witnessed a drug court graduation program and can testify that it is apparent that sometimes people are helped by the court to wade through the physical addition (that’s why the program is 12 months rather than the celebrity rehab period of six weeks then back to the needle) and also deal with those factors that allow an emotional dependence upon drugs. This is often where the intensive counseling comes in. Most people involved agree that this program is not just another social program that provides more benefits to the workers than the client (most of the workers are already employed). It’s a program that has shown a significant amount of positive results and that’s why it has had the support of judges, attorneys, police chiefs, etc. across party lines.
    The questions I have asked before and I’ll ask again is why is it the State funds only 14 local programs and not all 28? How does the unfunded programs find the resources to run their programs and are they as successful as the state funded ones?

  13. Further evidence that this guy Bell is a painfully short-sighted legislator, and he’s a rightwing ideologue to boot. Def. seems out of the mainstream of his district. So why can’t the Albemarle Dems find a good candidate to run up against him????

  14. A close friend’s husband went through the Drug Court program several years ago and came out of it a changed man. Previous incarcerations and rehabs hadn’t worked, and many of us had given up on him entirely.

    Drug Court works because it’s a direct system of cause and effect that’s easily assimilated. The employees and judge do an exemplary job.

    Jogger, if you’re having trouble understanding any of this, why don’t you contact Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Claude Worrell or Judge Ted Hogshire, and ask them to explain it all to you.

  15. Interesting link, Harry Landers. Thanks!
    Got even more interesting when I clicked on “List All Donors” and went through all six pages.

  16. “Drug Court works because it’s a direct system of cause and effect that’s easily assimilated.” Should become its anthem!

  17. @Demopublic, go back and search on Toscano and you’ll see many of the same names. I guess you have to pay to play.
    I seem to remember that when forming the Drug Court, the local probation office offered to perform the services of Offender Aid and Restoration for about a third of the cost. The local program may have to switch service providers.
    It will be interesting to see what support Toscano and Bell give to cutting funding for public radio.

  18. Jogger said:

    My point being I don’t believe you can talk anyone out of being an alcoholic or drug addict. These are things which you need to resolve for yourself…i.e…see the error in your ways and make a change.

    I think you may misunderstand what drug courts do. Drug courts connect addicts with resources that help them recover and makes sure they are utilized. I haven’t heard anyone suggest that kicking a habit is up to anyone other than the addict. If an addict doesn’t recognize their problem, they cannot overcome it. But to suggest that others cannot help them make this realization (ever seen an intervention?), or help them with recovery after that realization is made, is naive. It happens every day. You may not know any recovering alcoholics or addicts, but I do, and them having resources to help them with that recovery has made it possible.

  19. The major problem I have with the program is that it is state mandated religion. 12 step programs like AA and NA are based solely on religious dogma and have no basis in medicine or psychology.

    You may say “but they can choose jail so its not state mandated religion!”. That’s absurd. Clearly people are being forced into state mandated religion by threat of physical force. One should not be forced to go to jail to retain their right to freedom of (or from) religion… just as adhering to a particular religious dogma should not allow some to avoid punishment by force. No matter what your beliefs you should be treated equally under the law.

    It obviously has nothing to do with budgets. Everyone knows it will cost more. Do you have any idea what it costs to keep an inmate with the DOC? I’d tell you but you wouldn’t even believe me its that outrageous.

    The bottom line here is that _someone_ believes drug possession should land people in jail. I can understand why they think this. The objection to the two courts thing has a strange sort of logic to it. Though not the one they claim. If you admit that drug possession is not a criminal problem, then you’re admitting it should not be a crime in the first place.

    You know… shutting down traffic court could save us a bundle too! Lets just throw them in jail instead of writing tickets. Flawless logic! Come to think of it… why do we have a separate civil court? Loose a lawsuit? GO TO JAIL! Things are getting more and more fair by the minute as we unify the courts. I’m a genius!

    You want to fix the budget? Do what the sane states do. Decriminalize and write tickets for simple possession and collect revenue. Duh.

    “Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes”

    – Abraham Lincoln

  20. “It will graduate its 200th person Feb. 26.” That’s an impressive record and an impressive amount of savings. The local jail has 564 inmates currently while the jail has a capacity of 580. If you put those 50 people in the program in jail, you’ll 34 inmates without jail. Therefore, we will have to spend millions building more beds. Remember, those who fail the program become regular inmates an help fill up the jail so that we can spend millions building an addition and possibly have even more lawsuits. The governor is talking about releasing some of the inmates as a way to save money. Wouldn’t it be great to have a drug court for them rather than putting them back downtown selling drugs? It becomes a question financially of an average of $400 or $20,000 for each offender. Even more for those whose use the jail’s revolving door. Today, going to jail is no punishment for a great many people and they certainly are not shamed by it.

  21. @Lars, nobody goes to Drug Court because he commits a misdemeanor drug possession. He goes because he has an addiction that he admits he can not control and has committed and crime that is related to that addiction and got caught. Being caught with a dose of cocaine will not get you into Drug Court.
    As for the religious aspect, when I attended a Drug Court “graduation exercise” I saw no evidence of anybody acknowledging the existence of God during the whole proceedings. Maybe some of the participants join AA or NA, but I’m not aware that it was a requirement in order to participant. Now, when I attended the ceremony it was about 8 years ago and things could have changed since then.
    Society can not afford addiction. With it comes financial insolvency, prostitution, medical expenses and child neglect. Society’s contributions to the families of addicts is exorbitant. With this system, they can choose help or they can choose jail; however, they can not to destroy the lives of other people, especially their children who often will end up in foster care just to protect them. Of all of the people who have been murdered these last twenty yeas that were involved in the drug trade at some level, perhaps they could be alive today if there had been a Drug Court available to them before they got in too deep.

  22. Lars, it’s just not smart to use only one tool– why use a hammer for everything when sometimes you need a screwdriver or wrench? Drug Court is not a free pass, but it’s also not the complete condemnation when you chuck them into a cell and throwing away the key.

    It’s really amazing to see the relationships that develop between the perpetrators and the judge. The only way I can describe the year-long process is to say that the person’s addiction becomes “real” to them. They come to understand the negative effects of the addiction in their lives and of those around them. And they’re given very clearly understood tools to help them succeed. It all comes wrapped in a framework of consistency, discipline, and encouragement. (Sounds like the principles of good parenting, doesn’t it?)

    We want addicts to become successfully sober, right? Well, this works. Ditto what Cecil said: Cville Eye’s comments hit the nail on the head.

  23. @Cecil, I usually appreciate your comments, although you may not think so.
    @Victoria, yes, disease control, and addiction is usually a self-imposed disease brought on by long time use, is often a function of mind control. I am really getting tired of the people I know who have high blood pressure or diabetes. They only want to take their medicin when they “feel” sick That’s when their disease become “real” to them. I also believe that’s why stop taking antibiotics, once they start feeling better they stop taking the antibiotics because their disease no long feels “real” to them and I guess taking the remaining four or five pills seems to be a burden.

  24. Cville Eye– you’re so right. Alcoholics and drug addicts are most prone to slipping when they feel at their best, i.e. after they’ve detoxed and are back in a “normal” routine. They forget the misery they felt while using and coming down. The denial aspect of addiction is a huge hurdle to get over. You or I may not feel that way, but that’s because we’re not addicts.

    Drug Court does a great job of keeping the addict focused on his/her ultimate goal, which is long-term sobriety and healthy integration back into society.

  25. I am a dedicated mother of 2, wife, daughter, sister, employee & friend, but am also a participant in the Drug Court Program. In April of 2008 Judge Hogshire & the Commonwealth’s attorney offered me the opportunity of a lifetime, Drug Court. After being severly addicted to pain pills for 9 months & eventually being arrested for prescription fraud, I was facing 10 years in prison. I made a mistake & broke the laws, but was in a completely different state of mind than I currently am today. I have been clean since October & am living a healthier, more devoted life now than I ever have before. I’m more involved in my kids life, the relationship between my husband & I is more bonded & stable & I’m all around, a happier person…thanks to the Drug Court Program!! I don’t expect anyone reading this to really understand my story, but do respect the fact that I once was the ‘druggie’ some speak about & how offensive those comments can really be. The world is full of addicts, whether in recovery or not, and without the help of our Drug Court Programs & those individuals who open their hearts to help, we would all either end up in prison or dead. I made the choice to live free & be the mother my kids deserved…do I still deserve to be just another inmate in the already, over-populated, prisons??

  26. @Victoria: I find it funny that people can’t detect sarcasm.

    @CvilleEye: It seems like you are implying that simple possession is not enough to get someone into drug court. So drug dealers should get drug court and drug USERS should go to regular court? I thought the point of the thing was to treat drug users?

  27. @Lars, I don’t know if it is so now, but originally one of the criteria was the offender must be an addict and just somebody walking around with a small amount of a banned substance trying to decide if he wants to try it. If he’s not an addict he doesn’t get in; if he’s a drug dealer it’s very hard for him to get in (selling small time to support a habit?). Let’s say social services visits a home after a report of child neglect and the social worker sees evidence of drug use, or a driver is pulled over by a police officer and he sees evidence of drug use in the ash tray, and finds cocaine in the glove compartment, then that person may be considered for drug court. A Pablo Escobar would never have gotten into drug court even if he had to snort cocaine every fifteen minutes.

  28. In 1996 after knee surgery, struggling to keep a small business afloat, and a rocky marriage, I too found myself addicted to pain pills. It all started so innocently, 2 every 4 hrs soon lead to 4 every 2 hours, just to keep going, after doctor hopping to keep up my supply, I was headed for a Dead End! I found myself calling in my own prescriptions, as there seem to be no other options, I thought I couldn’t get thru each day without those 30 pills. The pressure was overwhelming, I had no thought for what it was doing to me, my marriage or my children, it was all about me. Then on a cold February day my life changed; Forever! I had been caught. I knew I was guilty, and so I stood before the judge and took my punishment. Because it was my first brush with the law at the time I was 41, I was allowed to plead down from a felony to a misdemeanor, what a dark dark day that would forever be. I could still vote, I wore an ankle bracelet for 28 days, while I continued to work, did community service which I already did from my heart anyway, and went through the OAR program, after 10 months I was released from the program as I had never had another episode, and someone believed that I had truly made a mistake from which I had learned a lot, little did I know then that it would continue to haunt me the rest of my life. Fast forward 3 years, & I change jobs and become a phlebotomist working in the NICU @ UVA. Yes I stuck the smallest tiniest veins there was, I was good at what I did, tell my supervisor calls me in one day and says, you failed to reveal you were convicted of a misdemeanor we are going to have to let you go. Her words rang thru my head over and over. I had made a mistake, I had accepted my punishment, and now I was still paying. I checked with the courts there was nothing I could do; it was there on my record for the rest of my life. Just this past year, I went to sit for licensing in the state of NC and yet again had to reveal a part of my past that I thought was long over, it was as bad this time around, but it still brings up a time, that I would like to have forgotten ever happened, but can’t. The morale of my story had there been a “Drug Court” then, I would have been the ideal candidate, like just about ever person in the program today, but there wasn’t any such program, and so now even though, I am a model citizen, with grown children and grandchildren, forever my life is scared because of a bad choice I made, and had no way out. If the law enforcement agencies would simply stop and take a look at the good things and find money to fund them and do away with some of the foolish spending that occurs, would everyone be better for their actions. So for “Participant” I applaud you, You sound so much like me, I wish you continued success in your recovery, and for you I am very glad there was such a program to help you through it all, for those who will come after you they will unfortunately be like me, they will make a mistake, and there will be no forgiveness it will forever haunt them no matter how hard they work to change their lives or do better. Please law officials who make these decisions re-think what you are doing, it could very easily happen to you or a loved one,l one day.

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