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  1. Alfa
    NEW LAW TO EXPAND DRUG COURTS

    Nonviolent drug offenders now have a therapeutic option to the
    judicial system in Isabella County with the support of a new law to
    expand drug courts statewide.

    A drug court in Mount Pleasant has been working with local offenders
    facing criminal drug charges, said Kathleen Fields, coordinator of the
    Isabella County Drug Treatment Court.

    "We have a very individualized approach to the participants seeking
    treatment, and it's a real positive experience overall," she said.

    In the county, 43 people received help through the 12 to 18 month
    program offered at the drug court, Fields said, and eight people have
    graduated successfully since the court began operating last year.

    Fields estimated there are about seven CMU and Mid Michigan Community
    College students going through the drug court's program.

    She said a number of the drug offenders are in their early 30s, and
    most are facing alcohol charges.

    The new law will serve as an alternative to prison for nonviolent drug
    offenders and expand the use of drug courts statewide under a
    bipartisan legislative package signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm last
    Wednesday.

    Granholm said drug courts offer another way to handle nonviolent
    offenders use of alcohol and drugs causing their criminal behavior.

    There are more than 36 operational drug court programs-- including
    Isabella County's drug court -- in 16 Michigan counties. Another 27
    programs are reportedly in the planning stages.

    The drug court in Isabella County received a $70,000 grant this year
    through the Department of Community Health Office of Drug Control
    Policy. Only 23 drug courts received state funding this year.

    Last year, drug courts in Michigan received $2.4 million in state
    appropriation funds.

    According to a study released by the National Institute of Justice,
    out of the 17,000 drug court graduates nationwide only 16.4 percent
    had been re-arrested and charged with a felonious offense.

    Fields said drug courts are continuing to break the cycle of drugs and
    crime.

    It has been a priority of the Granholm administration to expand the
    use of drug courts to save lives and save taxpayers' money instead of
    putting offenders in jails and prison.

    Drug courts ultimately save money, Fields said, and decrease substance
    abusers chances of relapsing back into their habitual criminal behavior.

    She said if drug offenders graduate successfully from the program, the
    charges would be dropped.



    Source: Central Michigan Life (MI Edu)

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