I have been asked many times as a judge to require a person to go to treatment. Many families want their sons, daughters, husbands or wives to attend court-mandated treatment.
Understandably, however it’s usually because they just want them out of jail and believe that treatment would be a better place for them.
It is no surprise that we have a drug epidemic in our community. Drugs are behind most crimes committed in our county. There are many families struggling with a family member who has an addiction; they have either just begun or are in deep in the criminal justice system.
Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, pretrial services, and detention centers and the community are constantly dealing with these individuals.
Getting a person into treatment is not always the solution for the criminal offense committed, but it can help. Whether a person needs treatment instead of jail is not a black and white matter.
Some individuals need jail; some need treatment and some need both. The courts can only sentence to treatment once the individual is convicted of or has pleaded to the charges. If families are looking to the courts to impose treatment, we can only do so as part of a sentence. That is usually months after the crime has been committed.
In order for treatment to work, the person has to be committed to the program. The person needs to want to make the change. It takes time to treat an addiction, there are ups and downs along the way, but it can be done.
A family cannot force a person into treatment, thinking it will work nor expect that there won’t be some jail time. But, if the individual needing treatment is ready, and is willing to do the hard work in staying sober, then, yes, treatment can make all the difference.
Under the new pretrial release rules, the court can impose a treatment program as a condition of release. The Pretrial Service Program the county uses has social workers who work with the defendants through case management and will make recommendations for treatment programs.
Again, the individual — not the family — needs to request and want the help since this is a pre-adjudication program.
Once a person has received a sentence from a court, the court can then require proof of a treatment program or may even require that the person be sent directly to an in-patient treatment facility. Some sentences require a drug or DWI Treatment Court. I am a firm believer in Treatment Courts because they do work!
I have seen changes in people’s lives and in the lives of their families. A person whose sentence includes a treatment court are subject to strict treatment along with a strict probation program.
So in summation, yes, the court can require treatment, however, it is important to know the stage of the court process that the person is in, and know that in the end, only the person who is struggling through an addiction can say if they are ready for that help.