DA: District VI eyed for drug court

Posted:  Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - 8:15am

According to District Attorney Jon Liberman, District VI, which includes Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties, is being considered for an adult drug and treatment court in one to two years. Called the Adult Drug and Co-Occurring Disorders Court, it would treat adults suffering from opioid dependence and other drug addictions.  In the Midcoast, methamphetamine use and manufacture is also a serious threat, Liberman pointed out.

He said there is no juvenile equivalent for the drug court, primarily because juvenile courts prefer treatment-only options, rather than the criminal justice system, for youth drug issues.

Liberman said he could not guarantee the court would materialize because its funding and other aspects would have to be in place first. He said the judiciary is in favor of the drug court in the Midcoast, so he has high hopes. The court would be at Lincoln or Knox County Courthouse, to be centrally located.

Liberman said about 30 offenders would be treated at any given time. He said they would be nonviolent offenders “who would not be in the criminal justice system but for their substance abuse issue.” Liberman said those who committed violent crimes would be excluded from the program.

The number of offenders is small because the resources offered are greater than given to a typical offender. Liberman said the Midcoast counties already have a very good track record in diverting drug offenders and helping them get treatment through programs like Lincoln County’s Addiction Resource Center, the sheriff’s offices, and other agencies. Drug offenders are also offered assistance through deferred disposition and other court options to exclude some more serious crimes from their record if they continue to work with their addiction specialist and refrain from committing other crimes during the deferment period.

“Those who would be in the specialty court would be people who, for whatever reason, didn’t succeed in these other programs,” Liberman said.  With the drug court, there is a much higher rate of supervision, he said. Treatment is part of the process. Specialty courts such as drug courts and the veteran’s court program in Kennebec County have a low recidivism rate.

Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said he and Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett  have been in favor of a drug court for the coastal counties since the two were first elected.  And he said there has been a change of heart among the judiciary, especially from Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley, and apparently, also among the Legislature. In her February address to the Legislature, Saufley proposed expanding the drug court system to battle the opioid crisis. The Legislature responded with a standing ovation. Since then, Saufley has proposed more treatment options for substance abusers, outside jail. 

However, Merry pointed out, the new Legislature and governer elected in November would have to support any drug court program in the budget. The district attorney is also up for reelection, although Liberman’s opponent, Natasha Irving, has already said she would petition for a drug court for the coastal counties as well.

According to Saufley, the traditional adult drug courts cost $150,000 to $200,000 per year. She proposed wraparound services that would include addiction treatment, at a cost that might reach $1 million per year across the state.