I am writing to offer another perspective on preventing crime and recidivism in our county.

Mental health issues, including drug addiction, drive up crime rates in Pacific County as well as nationally. I have recently learned that our small county is effectively addressing these issues with a mental health diversion program and an adult drug court. Drug courts use a combination of accountability and treatment to support and compel drug using offenders to change their lives. If they are unable to complete the 16-month intensive program, they have already entered a guilty plea and have agreed to the maximum sentence for their crime.

Last Thursday, I attended the Pacific County Adult Drug Court. I left in absolute awe of the program. The focus is on stopping recidivism and holding participants accountable for their actions. All the participants are subjected to random drug testing, some as often as daily. They attend a substance use disorder treatment program and are supported in their attempts to change their lives and become productive citizens.

Participants meet with Judge Don Richter and the other members of the drug court panel, typically on a weekly basis. It was quickly apparent that the judge and panel are connected to what is going on in each participant’s life. They demand accountability for actions and at the same time encourage each participant to use the supports in place to achieve success. If a person genuinely wants to turn their life around, our drug court offers a solid opportunity to do just that. If a person is not able to make change, they will fail, and failing means facing the stiffest possible consequences for their crime.

Statistics show that Pacific County Adult Drug Court is effective at reducing recidivism. To date there have been zero cases of recidivism by drug court graduates. There have been at least 20 graduates since its inception, and eight babies have been born drug-free. Judge Richter and the drug court staff are using national Best Practices to help those who are lost in addiction and trauma to find reasons to live and contribute. Despite opinions to the contrary, hope and support bring change. Harsher sentences do not restore safety.

I implore each of you to look at the evidence. If we are going to get our community back, we need to find out the facts. The facts are that Pacific County Adult Drug Court is a shining success in reducing recidivism. Thank you, Judge Richter, and all those involved in making this program a huge success.


Ocean Park

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