PARKERSBURG -– West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis recently signed an Administrative Order establishing West Virginia's West Central Drug Court Diversion Program to serve Wirt and Wood counties. The program later may be expanded to a larger region.
Supreme Court Administrative Director Steve Canterbury presented the order to Drug Court organizers during a ceremony July 2 at the Parkersburg Municipal Building.
"The American criminal justice system is fueled by alcohol and drugs," Davis said in a news release. "A June 2003 statewide sampling indicated that more than 41 percent of West Virginia's regional jail inmates reported they have abused substances.
"I'm pleased to announce programs like this that show how the court system is trying to change lives and lower recidivism."
Canterbury was one of the founders of the West Virginia community corrections system when he was Executive Director of the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority, the job he held before joining the Court two years ago.
"One of the most important developments in community corrections is the emergence of treatment courts, such as drug courts and mental health courts," Canterbury said. "Recidivism is lower in cases where individuals are forced to meet the demands of drug courts. It's also less expensive for taxpayers than sending someone to jail.
"And it has been proven throughout the nation and in West Virginia that treatment courts can help people become contributing members of society rather than leeches on the social fabric."
The West Central Drug Court will serve only adults who have either pled guilty or been found guilty of non-violent misdemeanors and felonies, and who were motivated to commit those crimes due to a substance abuse addiction. People can volunteer for the program to avoid jail and prison sentences, if a judge so orders.
Prosecutors have final approval of all participants, and all participants must be evaluated as a low to moderate risk to be released back into the community. People who have been charged with sex crimes or crimes in which a child was the victim are not eligible.
Participants will undergo substance abuse treatment and will be heavily supervised by probation officers, law enforcement and the sentencing court. If needed, they may also undergo treatment for mental illnesses.
Each person will remain in the program for at least a year. Participants may be forced to repeat certain phases if they have positive drug screens or if they refuse to cooperate. The judge may impose jail time if he feels it is necessary to make a participant follow the protocol. Those who do follow the protocol will be rewarded with gift certificates from local retailers and other incentives.
Wood Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey B. Reed will be the Administering Drug Court Judge. Assistant Wood County Prosecutor Jason Whaton will be the Drug Court Prosecutor. Wood County attorney Patrick Radcliff will be the Drug Court Defense Attorney.
The Wood County Day Report Center will be the treatment provider. Concord University Vice President John David Smith and others from the university as well as Erin Lentz of the Wood County Day Report Center will serve as evaluators. Parkersburg Police Captain J.J. Dyke will be the law enforcement team member. Adult Probation Officer Katherine L. Trippel will be the Drug Court Coordinator.
The program is the third drug court in West Virginia. The first opened to serve Brooke, Hancock, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties in August 2005, and another opened in Mercer County in January 2006.