Prince William cuts substance-abuse program in regional jail

April 24, 2013

The top elected law enforcement officials in Prince William County criticized a decision this week by the Board of County Supervisors to cut a substance-abuse treatment program in the county jail.

The board eliminated local funding for the program known as the drug DORM (Drug Offender Rehabilitation Module), which is used to treat drug addicts who commit crimes and help them enter GED and employment classes. In the past decade, about 1,700 inmates have gone through the program, officials said.

“I’m disappointed, and I know the courts are disappointed,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D), who said the program helps people stay out of trouble. “It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish. That program is going to save the county a lot of money.”

The board earlier had decided to eliminate $607,000 in local funding for the program. When advocates last week learned that the General Assembly was sending more money to localities than expected, they hoped the supervisors would restore the program using those dollars.

Instead, the board decided to use the additional state money to hire three or four new police officers.

Prince William Sheriff Glendell Hill (R) helped start the program about 20 years ago when he was the jail’s superintendent. “I’m disappointed because the program contributes to our public safety,” he said in an interview. “ We have a captive audience. We have an opportunity to treat people while they’re there.”

Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R) had said he was initially optimistic that additional funds coming from the state to local agencies could be used to fund the treatment program.

However, officials learned that those dollars could be used for any county service, and Stewart said there were competing priorities.

“We absolutely do need it,” Stewart said of the program. He and other supervisors said they hope to find additional cuts that would allow them to restore the DORM program before the fiscal 2014 budget takes effect July 1.

Supervisors delayed a vote on a “reduction in force” resolution — which would notify the 11 staffers who serve the program that they would lose their jobs.

Bill Tracey, a member of the Community Services Board that oversees such services, said he was “very disappointed.”

“The 11 employees [who serve the program] are not going to trust the county again — they will all be looking for new jobs . . . and without them, the program will be gone,” he said in an e-mail.

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