A critical element of crime prevention is the rehabilitation of those offenders who have the capability to become productive, taxpaying members of society once they have paid their debt to society for their crimes. Far too often a person’s first exposure to the criminal justice system begins a vicious cycle of criminal behavior. This places a continued strain on the community, law enforcement, the offender’s family and the offender themselves.
While rehabilitation is a desired outcome for all offenders, violent criminals will be vigorously prosecuted with the only goal in mind being the safety of this community. For non-violent offenders, however, each individual case must be evaluated to determine whether there is a potential the offender can be rehabilitated and break the cycle of criminal behavior to lead lives of contribution to society and care for their children and loved ones.
A priority for me as Commonwealth’s Attorney will be to ensure the successful implementation of Drug Court. The most common example of a non-violent offender being drawn into a vicious cycle of criminal behavior are those who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Simply sending these individuals to jail for a short duration and releasing them back into the community does nothing to deter future criminal behavior. In fact, it increases the likelihood of criminal behavior as the offender still has a substance abuse problem but they now have a criminal record as well.
Drug Court is not available to anybody with a violent crime on their record and it is not available to anyone presently charged with a violent crime. The offender is still held accountable for their initial criminal offense and convicted of the crime they committed. However, instead of simply being released back into the community without addressing the underlying problem, the offender is given treatment through Horizon Behavioral Health in collaboration with the Department of Probation and Parole and the Court.
The offender is required to complete at least 12 months of treatment with frequent drug and alcohol testing, intensive therapy and continued interaction with the judicial process. The goal at the conclusion of this process is an individual who has been held accountable for their criminal actions but who is also prepared to turn the page of their own life and break the cycle of criminal behavior.
Drug Court is but one program I will constantly evaluate to achieve my primary purpose: the safety and security of this community. Turning non-violent potential repeat offenders into productive law-abiding citizens will be priority in my office.
The Supreme Court of Virginia approved a drug court for Lynchburg last October and implementation is planned for March 1, 2017.