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Grant to allow treatment for offenders

Local judicial officials have a few more tools to battle crime – extra beds at area alcohol and drug treatment facilities.

Monday, November 29, 1999

Local judicial officials have a few more tools to battle crime – extra beds at area alcohol and drug treatment facilities. The STAR Community Justice Center, in conjunction with nine county common pleas courts, will use a $278,800 grant to create treatment programs for non-violent adult offenders, said Dan Hieronimus, executive director at the justice center, the grant’s implementing agency.

Known as the STAR Turning Point program, the plan offers judges in the nine counties, including Lawrence, the ability to sentence offenders who are willing to accept treatment at the Stepping Stones facility for women and the Marsh House for men.

"What happens is the court calls, says someone needs six months chemical dependency treatment, we assess and, if we agree, then we’ll recommend that person for a program at the facilities," Hieronimus said.

The whole point is to give courts alternatives to sentencing and to help habitual criminals change their lives, he said.

Research indicates that 80 to 90 percent of the state’s criminals have experience with alcohol or drugs and that many who abuse alcohol or drugs will continue committing crimes to support their habits, said Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas Judge Frank McCown, a member of the nine-county Judicial Corrections Board.

The justice system, through programs such as Turning Point, needs to become active in solving addiction problems, not just reacting, McCown said.

Lawrence County presiding Judge Richard Walton, also a member of the JCB, called such problem-solving programs progressive.

"It is the greater purpose of this court to make our community whole, not just interpret the law, and this program leads in that direction," Walton said.

Treatment alternatives like Turning Point also change the person and keep prisons from overflowing with repeat offenders, said Scioto County presiding Judge Walter Lytten, who serves as JCB chair.

The grant begins Jan. 1, and will flow through the Scioto County Board of Commissioners as fiscal agent, Hieronimus said.

Meanwhile, Hieronimus wants to expand the justice center’s involvement to include treatment outside of addiction problems and coordination of local probation services.

Help overcoming alcohol, for example, should merge with anger management, vocational training, parenting and other skills – all to be taught in a community-based justice center, he said.

Then, services offered locally will round out the offender’s treatment after they are back home, he added.

"Research shows that after a four- to six-month treatment, a person gets out and needs six to 12 months of cognitive restructuring to make the best impact" on returning to society, Hieronimus said.

Such programs are not in place at the justice center yet, but plans are being written to develop those resources, he said.