For the past decade, San Diego judges have held a powerful weapon over parents working to get their children returned to them, says the San Diego Union-Tribune: If parents repeatedly fail in the court’s substance abuse recovery program – by testing positive for drugs or not attending classes – they are sent to jail for contempt of court. Hundreds of parents have served jail time typically ranging from a few nights to nearly a week.
Now the practice is likely to be stopped by the state Supreme Court. This month, the court heard arguments in a case brought by a San Diego woman who was sentenced to 300 days in jail for contempt of court, and ended up serving more than a month. The case turns on fundamental issues about how far juvenile courts can go to compel parents to obey orders aimed at reunifying families and the appropriate penalties for parents who don’t obey. County lawyers have concluded the justices likely will rule against them and side with the woman. Officials are thinking about how to run the Substance Abuse Recovery Management System without the jailing penalty.