Common Pleas Court receives state certification

Staff Report

POMEROY — The Drug Court of the Meigs County Common Pleas Court, General Division has earned final certification from the Ohio Supreme Court’s Commission on Specialized Dockets.

In order to receive the certification, the local court had to submit an application, undergo a site visit, and provide specific program materials in response to certification standards that went in to effect in January 2014, according to a press release from the Meigs County Common Pleas Court.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor congratulated the Meigs County Common Pleas Court and Judge Linda R Warner for receiving final certification.

“Specialized dockets divert offenders toward criminal justice initiatives that employ tools and tailored services to treat and rehabilitate the offender so they can become productive members of society,” said Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. “Studies have shown this approach works by reducing recidivism while saving tax dollars.”

According to the release, specialized dockets are courts that are dedicated to specific types of offenses or offenders and use a combination of different techniques for holding offenders accountable while also addressing the underlying causes of their behavior. There are more than 210 specialized dockets in Ohio courts that deal with issues such as drugs and alcohol, mental health, domestic violence, and human trafficking.

The standards provide a minimum level of uniform practices for specialized dockets throughout Ohio, and allow local courts to innovate and tailor to meet their community’s needs and resources, the release stated.

“Many individuals and families in our community suffer from the consequences of drug addiction,” Judge Warner said. “Often those addicted to drugs are involved with the criminal justice system and embedded in a cycle of incarceration, release from incarceration, relapse into drug use, and involvement in a variety of illegal activities to support or continue the use of illegal drugs and then re-incarceration. Repeated incarceration, alone, often does not break the cycle. Based upon the sentencing laws in Ohio, partially in response for the costs of incarceration of offenders, the court is unable to send many offenders to prison at all when first convicted or at least not for any significant period of time. These challenges and lack of effectiveness in the old system has led to development of drug courts as an alternative to doing things the same way we have always done things. Rather than simply sending persons back to prison again and again, for short periods of time, the drug court allows the treatment team (including the court) to meeting with offenders very regularly. The drug court participants are also screened more frequently than a non-drug court person on felony probation. The techniques used in drug court are evidence-based techniques and include not only more frequent contact between the defendant, the court and providers, but also recognition of progress with rewards and incentives, and swift sanctions for violations or relapse. I am proud of our court, including my staff, and our community, for coming together and working for this full Ohio Supreme Court Certification for the Meigs County Common Pleas Court Drug Court”

The certification requirements include establishing eligibility requirements, evaluating effectiveness of the specialized docket, and assembling a treatment team for implementing daily operations of the specialized docket, according to the release. The Drug Court of the Meigs Common Pleas Court’s treatment team includes Drug Court Coordinator BJ Kreseen, Chief Probation Officer Cassady Willford, Probation Officer Courtney Bullington and PSI writer Brittney Lavender, along with Meigs County Prosecutor James K. Stanley, Defense Attorney Michael Huff, Bill Gilkey of the Meigs County Sheriff’s Department and representatives from several local licensed service providers.

The Commission on Specialized Dockets has 22 members who advise the Supreme Court and its staff regarding the promotion of statewide rules and uniform standards concerning specialized dockets in Ohio courts; the development and delivery of specialized docket services to Ohio courts; and the creation of training programs for judges and court personnel. The commission makes all decisions regarding final certification.

Information provided by Meigs County Common Pleas Court.

Staff Report