POTTSVILLE -- Schuylkill County is taking a new approach to reducing crime and deal with its overcrowded prison by starting a drug treatment court.
Schuylkill County's newly formed drug treatment court focuses on treating criminals dealing with addiction.
Defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges packed a courtroom inside the Schuylkill County Courthouse for an hour-long seminar on the county's new drug treatment court.
"Myself, as the chief law enforcement officer in Schuylkill County, I have been advocating for this program for some time and I am really proud to be a part of the team," said Schuylkill County District Attorney Christine Holman.
According to the D.A., 40 percent of the crimes that occur in Schuylkill County are drug-related. The new drug treatment court offers nonviolent offenders dealing with drug addiction an alternative to ending up in the county jail with a record.
But the program is not going to be easy to complete.
"They need to report weekly to meet with the judge. The judge will speak to them for a few minutes. The drug court team will be reviewing their progress. So, there is going to be nothing that we don't know about these applicants and what they are doing on a day-to-day basis," said Holman.
The drug treatment court in Schuylkill County will be limited to about 30 people at a time. It is intended to be an intensive program. Each participant will have to be a part of it for 14 months. The hope, obviously, is to reduce crime in the county. But also the hope is that trickles down into reducing the number of inmates in Schuylkill County's overcrowded prison."
"The research is there, the statistics are there. Drug courts work. We are going to do our best to implement it correctly. I think if we do, we can make a dent in the drug problem in our county," said public defender Michael Stine.
Nonviolent offenders who successfully complete the program get their charges dismissed and can even potentially get the charges expunged from their records.
However, if you fail the program, it's straight to jail. Those offenders agree to plead guilty and be sentenced.