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Judges: Pr. William substance abuse treatment program is effective

Prince William County supervisors restored the regional jail’s substance abuse treatment program Tuesday after weeks of lobbying from top law enforcement officials, judges and social service advocates.

Supervisors had cut the drug DORM (Drug Offender Rehabilitation Module), a savings of $607,000 a year, to help pave pave the way for an agreement to a fiscal 2014 budget. But support remained for the program, and supervisors said they would try to find a way to restore it.

They did so unanimously by cutting a new deputy county executive’s position at about $211,000; $140,000 in funds used to supplement the state-mandated county health department; and $180,000 that was previously unallocated, in addition to other, smaller cuts. Supervisors also used those funds to restore the Bluebird bus tour program, a transportation program for seniors.

Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said in an interview that lobbying for the treatment program from Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D), Sheriff Glendell Hill (R) and Prince William Circuit Court judges among others was “absolutely” effective.

“If somebody gets out of jail and they continue to be hooked on ... substances, they’ll continue to offend,” he said. “It’s not exactly politically popular to fund a substance abuse program for convicts. But it’s one of those things that if you don’t do it, it’s going to cause a public safety problem.”

In a recent letter to supervisors, county Circuit Court judges told supervisors that they are frequently tasked with sentencing people for drug or drug-related crimes.

Judges Mary Grace O’Brien, Richard B. Potter, Lon E. Farris and Craig D. Johnston said in the letter that the substance abuse program in the regional jail allows for judges to reduce sentences for those who successfully complete it.

“It is a program in which we have confidence, unlike many others,” the judges wrote. “The men and women who graduate from these programs appear to be much more likely to become law-abiding citizens who can contribute to society in a positive fashion.

“Absent another choice, there may be no good way to protect society and to protect them, but to give them a lengthy sentence,” the judges added.

In the past decade, about 1,700 inmates have received treatment, according to program data. Seventy-one percent of those who completed the program were not rearrested within three years, the statistics said.

Stewart said that he would seek to keep the program off the budget chopping block in the future. “It’s absolutely necessary that you do what you can to break [inmates’] drug abuse habits.”



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