Several years ago, Madeline Simineo attended a lecture given by Dr. Nick Taylor. He spoke about community-based treatment options for Delta area residents struggling with methamphetamine addiction.
At the end of the lecture, Simineo raised her hand. "What can the general public do to make a difference?" she asked.
Dr. Taylor suggested she come to the county courthouse to observe drug court proceedings. She has been a constant presence in the courtroom ever since. Although Simineo said she doesn't enjoy seeing people go through tough times, she feels she has made a difference in the lives of those who are struggling with addictions of all kinds, from alcohol to prescription drugs to methamphetamine. Simineo, who is in her 80s, returns to court week after week because, "At my age, there's not much I can do to make a difference. I sit back here and say, 'Lord help them,' because I can't and He can."
But she does more than pray. She provides moral support, words of encouragement and, occasionally, cookies.
Simineo was one of the many drug court volunteers recognized at a celebration of National Drug Court Month. At an open house held in Judge Sandra Miller's courtroom, the drug court team, Drug-Free Delta County board members and elected officials were also recognized.
"National Drug Court Month" is coordinated on a national level by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and locally through Drug-Free Delta County. This year's national theme is "Drug Courts: A Proven Budget Solution."
In drug courts, seriously drug-addicted individuals remain in treatment for long periods of time while under close supervision. Drug court participants must meet their obligation to themselves, their families and society. To ensure accountability, they are regularly and randomly tested for drug use, attend weekly therapeutic sessions, appear frequently in court for the judge to review their progress, rewarded for doing well and sanctioned for not living up to their obligations. Research continues to show that drug courts work better than jail, prison or general probation.
Theft, trespassing, driving under the influence ... defendants find themselves facing charges for a variety of reasons, but when the underlying cause is drug or alcohol abuse, the probation department often recommends drug court. Two important factors are considered. First is the safety of the community. Second is the desire of the individual to commit to an intensive program that can take anywhere from 14 months to three years to complete. To graduate, they must have maintained sobriety, they must be employed or pursuing education, and they must be able to demonstrate a stable lifestyle.
"This is the Outward Bound of the criminal justice system," commented probation officer Juan Gallegos.
Nationally, 75% of individuals who complete drug court are not re-arrested; in Delta County that figure is an impressive 87%.
Judge Miller's docket averages around 20 cases weekly. Still, she says, "We haven't reached our full potential."blog comments powered by Disqus