Since 1989 starting in Miami-Dade County in Florida, the treatment court model has grown to over 2,600 such courts in every state throughout the nation. In New York state, such courts exist in every county.
The basic concept is for the court to mandate and monitor effective chemical dependency/mental health counseling of defendants who have already admitted their criminal wrong-doing. Sentencing is adjourned while the defendants engage in rehabilitative services. The goal is a law-abiding, substance-free defendant living in a clean, stable environment who is either working or engaged in schooling or a vocational training program. Such successful defendants are current in their child support obligations and generally have their licenses.
In the Dunkirk Treatment Court over 75 percent of the participants achieve this over the course of 12 to 24 months. The court takes defendants from Chautauqua County court and the local criminal courts throughout northern Chautauqua County.
"It is the court's practice to recognize the tremendous strides that these individuals have achieved," said Judge Walter Drag, who presides in the treatment court. "It is not an easy task to change behaviors which bring the defendants into the criminal justice system."
Judge Drag and the treatment court team of about 15 professionals have announced that on Feb. 13 at 1:30 p.m., Dunkirk City Court will recognize the current group achieving their completion/graduation status. The public is cordially invited to attend. Individuals and groups may confirm the number attending by calling Dunkirk City Court at 366-9834 or emailing to DUNTREAT@courts.state.ny.us.
The Dunkirk City Treatment Court, now in its 12th year, has enjoyed wide community support.
Judge Drag stated, "The presence of a full courtroom witnessing and acknowledging the achievements of the graduates encourages not only those completing the program but those currently in the program."
Light refreshments and Valentine's Day decor will highlight the celebration.