Philadelphia’s Drug Treatment Court has been spared the state budget ax after legislators restored statewide treatment funding to the budget they passed Dec. 22. “Obviously, it was a great Christmas present and a good way to start the new year,” said Municipal Court President Judge Louis J. Presenza, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.
William Rodriguez, 41, who conquered a heroin addiction through the program, said, “I think Drug Treatment Court is invaluable. Not only does it serve as a deterrent [to additional drug convictions with prison sentences], but they also pat you on the back when you do a good job. The positive affirmation is encouraging, and you won’t find that in prison.”
Prosecutors select nonviolent offenders with substance-abuse problems for the program. Defendants must plead guilty and enter court-ordered intensive treatment. If offenders stay arrest-free and drug-free for a year after the program, their convictions are expunged. Offenders who fail go to jail. Of those who successfully finish the program, 85 percent remain arrest-free, Presenza said. Said District Attorney Lynne Abraham: “Our drug court should be a model for the entire commonwealth.”
Last month, as legislators struggled with the state budget crisis, $104 million in statewide treatment funding was slashed. Lawmakers faced a $2.5 billion deficit caused by lower tax revenue during the recession, but $102 million in treatment funding was restored to the budget.