Drug Court is an alternative sentencing program authorized by the Kentucky Supreme Court that targets non-violent offenders whose criminal behaviors stem from substance abuse. It utilizes a team approach to the problem of drug addiction. Participants enter the program either through diversion or through probation. A defendant can be immediately probated into the program, can be sent to the program in lieu of a probation revocation, or can be sent to the program upon shock probation.
- The Drug Court by design seeks to intervene and break the cycle of substance abuse, addiction and crime by coordinating the efforts of the judiciary, prosecution, defense bar, probation, law enforcement and mental health, social services and treatment providers.
- Drug Court for felony defendants: can be completed in a minimum of 18 months; 12 months of active participation with 6 months of aftercare. On average it takes a defendant 2 years to complete the program.
- Drug Court for misdemeanor defendants: can be completed in a minimum of 15 months; 12 months of active participation with 3 months of aftercare.
- The program is made up of three phases, each with specific tasks and goals to be completed before advancing to the next phase followed by the Aftercare component.
- Phase 1 is a stabilizing period that usually lasts 4 – 6 weeks and includes at least 3 random urine drug/alcohol screens weekly, attending 3 counseling sessions per week, attending 1 court session weekly, maintaining court-approved full-time employment, training or education, maintaining court-approved housing, beginning arrangements for payment of court obligations, making at least 1 weekly individual contact with Drug Court staff, indicating an initial understanding of substance abuse treatment, enrolling and attending a self-help program, such as a 12-step program, and remaining drug-free for at least 30 consecutive days before consideration for promotion to the next phase.
- Phase 2 is the educational period and usually lasts 8 months. It includes at least 2 random urine drug/alcohol screens weekly, attending 2 counseling sessions per week, attending 1 court session every two weeks, maintaining court-approved full-time employment, training or education, maintaining court-approved housing, continuing to pay court obligations, making at least 1 weekly individual contact with Drug Court staff, indicating an appropriate understanding of recovery principles, continuing to attend self-help programs, such as a 12-step program, and remaining drug-free for the final 90 days consecutively before consideration for promotion to the next phase.
- Phase 3 is the Self-motivational period that usually lasts 3 months. It includes at least 1 random urine drug/alcohol screen weekly, attending 1 counseling session per week, attending 1 court session every three weeks, maintaining court-approved full-time employment, training or education, maintaining court-approved housing, continuing to pay court obligations, making at least 1 weekly individual contact with Drug Court staff, indicating an appropriate understanding of a recovery lifestyle, continuing to attend self-help programs, such as a 12-step program, remaining drug-free for the full 90 days consecutively of this phase for a total of 180 consecutive days with Phases 2 and 3.
- Aftercare is a minimum of 6 months and is the final component prior to graduation. During which the defendant reports once a month in court, drug tests at least once a month, and is required to do 1 hour substance abuse education per month. Once they’ve completed Aftercare they graduate from Drug Court. Graduations are held 3-4 times a year during which the graduates speak about their drug court experience and their drug addiction struggles.
- In addition to the requirements in order to move up a phase the Drug Court staff also conducts employment, school and/or home visits to make sure the participants are doing what they say they are doing and to check for signs of drug use. Some individuals may also require domestic violence counseling, anger management counseling, mental health services, or other services the Drug Court staff determines the participant needs.
- If a participant continues to experience relapse, a higher level of substance-abuse treatment will be considered. If a participant experiences a relapse in either Phase II or Phase III, a demotion to the previous phase will be imposed. Failure to comply with Drug Court requirements results in sanctions which include, but are not limited to, writing assignments, community service, jail and termination from the program.
As the Drug Court Liaison Jennifer Murzyn Yancey assists fellow prosecutors with finding appropriate candidates for the program as well as facilitates communication between judges and Drug Court. She also handles the filing of any motions and the proceeding that follows while a defendant is participating in the program including the motion to revoke probation if a defendant is terminated from Drug Court.