Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 25 Nov 2017 12am

Headlines:

     

     

     

     

     

    Friday, November 24, 2017-10:31:39P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Judge says Drug Court has 70% success rate

THE CNMI Drug Court has recorded more than 70 percent of success rate since it was established in December 2016, Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio said.

At present, they have 24 participants and 12 more are on the waiting list, she added. A majority are men.

“The emphasis [of the Drug Court program] is on treatment and accountability — it’s not on punishment,” the judge told members of the Rotary Club of Saipan during its meeting at the Hyatt’s Giovanni’s Restaurant on Tuesday.

She said the Drug Court “utilizes alternative treatment tracks appropriate for individualized interventions.”

The Drug Court, she added, takes into consideration the person’s addiction, mental and physical health, and other factors which may prevent successful recovery.

“In our Drug Court, I have participants who have been tested positive over the course of six months, maybe 20 times, but I don’t terminate them, and the reason being is that obviously if they don’t have an addiction, they won’t be in the program, and so what we do is when they test positive for drug use, we increase the treatment.”

Drug Court program manager TaAnn Kabua, for her part, told the Rotarians that their 18-month program uses a non-adversarial approach in which the prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting the participants’ due process rights.

The Drug Court provides access to a continuum of alcohol, drug and other related treatment and rehabilitation services, she added.

Participants graduate from the program based on their progress and compliance with the judge’s order, Kabua said.

The graduates are also required to get a job, study at Northern Marianas College or at the trade school and be a productive citizen, Judge Kim-Tenorio said.

She said the treatment process includes drug testing for at least 234 times.

Superior Court Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio talks about the Drug Court during the Rotary Club of Saipan on Tuesday. Also in photo is  Drug Court manager TaAnn Kabua.  Photo by Junhan B. Todiño

“It’s quite intense and harder than sitting in jail,” she said, adding that they are trying to heal the whole person.

“We get involved in all aspects of their life, their health, their job. And our Drug Court staff members also work hard to help them find a job, so we can rehabilitate them into the community — we make them whole so they are ready to go back and merge with society.”

She said the Drug Court treats their participants’ addiction instead of punishing them.

On Saipan, it cost the government $31,000 a year to house a healthy inmate. That inmate, she added, may come out and again commit another offense because “they don’t know how to survive.”

The Drug Court, for its part, has a sanction and reward component.

When participants are not in compliance with the treatment model or contract, and if they test positive for drug use, their treatment will be increased and they will also be sanctioned with community service hours or jail term.

“The whole purpose of the program is for them to be treated so that they get rid of their addiction and recover for life,” the judge said.

Participants who have been sober for 30 days and completed the recovery hours for all their treatments are provide incentives such as food coupons, gas vouchers and movie passes.

“All the incentives come from our pockets and the other judges,” Judge Kim-Tenorio said.

In the first years of its operation, the Drug Court received $50,000 from the general fund, and will get $99,000 in the next fiscal year.

Judge Kim-Tenorio said they spend $7,000 for each participant but will also charge them $540 when they start earning money.

“That teaches them responsibility and accountability,” she said.