Pubdate: Sat, 22 Oct 2005
Source: Coeur D'Alene Press (ID)
Copyright: 2005 Coeur d'Alene Press
Author: Mary Rodgers


Restorative justice programs for non-violent offenders reduce costs to
taxpayers. These intensive programs get to the root of the problem
instead of focusing on incarceration and punishment. Jail expansions
are much more expensive in the long run than effective, successful
treatment. Existing today nationwide are examples of such innovative
programs, with statistics proving success. A huge percentage of
incarcerated people are substance abuse offenders who have mental
disorders such as depression, bi-polar disorder and/or schizophrenia
(dual diagnoses). The stigma and shame of mental illness creates
denial and avoidance on the part of the offender, communities and
governmental agencies. All of these disorders are highly treatable
with consistent modern psychiatric resources and medications. Once
released, drug crimes recur because the mentally ill offender is
unsuccessfully self-medicating.

Kootenai County's Drug Court, run by Judge Mitchell, is one example of
restorative justice in action. Dual-diagnosed, non-violent felons are
diverted into rigorous, long-term, intensive treatment plans at a
lesser cost than incarceration. Accountability and growth become daily
requirements while offering compassionate justice resulting in
remarkable successes.

Commissioners: Why not put the jail expansion money into viable,
successful, cheaper programs?

Mary Rodgers

Board Member, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Coeur d'Alene resident 
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