SYCAMORE — The DeKalb County Drug and DUI Court is helping similar programs help nonviolent drug addicts.
In May, the six-year-old program designed to help people whose criminal activity is influenced by their drug use was named a “mentor court” by the National Drug Court Institute. Mentor courts meet national drug court standards and serve as models for other courts across the nation.
DeKalb County drug court coordinator Marilyn Stromborg said the local team feels lucky to be among the 10 mentor drug courts nationwide. The team of attorneys, law enforcement and court officials are committed to the success of the court, she said.
“They even donate their time when they’re not working,” Stromborg said. “It’s all paid off by having a really fine drug court.”
Drug courts are drug abuse treatment programs that help nonviolent offenders overcome their addiction. In the program, participants undergo counseling and judicial supervision of their progress. Sanctions or criminal court prosecutions are usually the result of participants who fail to abide by the program.
Chip Criswell, a DeKalb County assistant public defender who joined the drug court team in June, credited his predecessors with the program’s success. Mentor courts provide a model for how drug courts should work, he said.
“We know drug courts work,” Criswell said. “... they only work if you do it correctly.”
Stromborg said the recidivism rate – or the percentage of participants later accused of another crime – for DeKalb County drug court graduates is 20 percent as of 2012. The Illinois prison recidivism rate is 51.7 percent.
“It doesn’t work for everyone but it does work,” she said.
Stromborg said the DeKalb County drug court applied to become a mentor court, which required submitting documents to the National Drug Court Institute, whose members see if the drug court’s practice is evidence-based and follows national standards.
The DeKalb County drug court stands out with its use of technology and well-organized documentation, Stromborg said.
“We’re fairly innovative in terms of what we do in the courtroom,” Stromborg said.
The county drug court is already serving as a role model for a drug court in Alabama. Stromborg said the local drug court team was contacted in June about its handbook.