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Participation in drug programs reduces drug-related crime recidivism     Send a link to a friend

[AUG. 28, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation Aug. 24 that will help reduce crime and recidivism among drug-involved offenders by enabling stronger partnerships between parole and drug courts. Sponsored by Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Rep. Patricia Reid Lindner, R-Sugar Grove, Senate Bill 2654 allows for a drug court judge to sentence an offender to prison with the Illinois Department of Corrections, followed by a combination of parole and probation under the court's supervision, in order to enable a drug offender to participate in drug courts while on parole.

"Drug courts serve as a successful model for helping reduce crime and recidivism among drug-involved offenders," Gov. Blagojevich said. "My administration has been working aggressively to address the state's record recidivism rate, largely fueled by the fact that as many as 69 percent of inmates are in prison for a drug crime or a drug-involved offense. This year, we have established the Sheridan national model drug prison and re-entry program and have begun a full-scale reform of parole in this state, called Operation Spotlight, that includes improving the management of drug-involved offenders in our communities. Through developing a closer partnership with the courts, this new law will provide parole with more tools to move offenders away from crime and drugs and make our communities safer."

Through parole, the Department of Corrections currently oversees the management and supervision of offenders from prison to re-entry to the community. Last year, Gov. Blagojevich began the four-year Operation Spotlight reform plan to improve supervision of parolees by doubling the number of parole agents and developing a best-practices case management plan for managing high-need offenders, such as those addicted to drugs. The plan involves development of a series of graduated sanctions and rewards for offenders to help move them away from crime and drugs and toward honest work and accountability. By improving access to drug courts, parole agents will be able to use an additional graduated sanction consistent with this plan.

"Last year the legislature passed a law requiring persons sent to prison for crimes related to drug addiction be provided drug treatment while they serve their term. This opportunity is provided to stop the cycle of drug addiction and to lower the rate of repeat offenders who are in prison because of their addiction," said Sen. Cullerton. "Now the question remains: Will the offenders stay clean once they are out? Drug courts have shown that they have the expertise and experience to provide support to the addict and to administer the programs available to curb the addiction and stop the cycle of drug addiction and crime."

Prior to Senate Bill 2654, parolees released from state prisons did not have access to drug courts. Since drug courts are county-based programs, only probationers could participate in these programs. The legislation makes a technical change in the law in order to allow certain drug offenders, as designated by a judge, to serve concurrently under both parole and probation supervision after release from a state prison. This enables their participation in drug courts.

Under the amended law, all offenders are eligible for a drug court program except those who have been convicted of selected crimes of violence, deny use of or addiction to drugs, are not willing to participate in a treatment program, or have previously completed or been discharged from a drug court program. Participants can also receive sanctions that include fines, fees, costs, restitution, incarceration of up to 180 days, therapy, drug testing, close monitoring by the court, and educational or vocational counseling.


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The new law also adds a ninth option of a term of imprisonment in combination with a term of probation when an offender has been admitted into a drug court program under Section 20 of the Drug Court Treatment Act (730 ILCS 166/20).

When a person is sentenced under this new law, the combination of time served in a Department of Corrections facility and time required on probation cannot exceed the maximum amount of time imposed if only being sentenced to the Department of Corrections. As part of this legislation, the judge can order the probation period to begin while an ex-offender is still on mandatory supervised release (parole), living at a Department of Corrections transitional center (day release program) or on an electronic monitoring device. This order would require the ex-offender to simultaneously serve on parole and probation.

Senate Bill 2654 does not mandate that a drug court program be established in every county. Currently, 19 drug court programs operate in 13 counties.

"With the development of Operation Spotlight and enhanced community-based programs, like drug courts, we are redefining what it means to be tough on crime in this state. Instead of dropping offenders into Illinois' communities upon release from prison and waiting for them to commit a new crime or find a new victim, we are demanding accountability from them as citizens of this state. With the signing of Senate Bill 2654, the state and the counties are saying to drug-involved offenders, ‘We will give you the opportunity to address the cause of your criminal behavior, and if you don't, there will be consequences,'" the governor said.

Gov. Blagojevich said the new law has the potential to save costs of incarceration by giving drug court judges the option of imposing shorter sentences combined with parole and probation. The new law also supports the leveraging of state resources with county resources to partner in the effective supervision of drug-involved inmates upon release from prison.

Department of Corrections Director Roger E. Walker Jr. said the legislation will help reinforce the agency's goal of taking prison-based treatment and re-entry management to the next level of performance.

"At any given time more than 25,000 inmates in Illinois prisons are in need of some form of drug intervention -- if not full clinical treatment," Walker said. "These statistics visibly show the need for dedicated substance-abuse treatment and re-entry programs designed for a targeted prison and parole population."

Senate Bill 2654 is effective Jan. 1, 2005.

[News release from the governor's office]

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