Drug dealers and violent criminals are avoiding jail by taking advantage of loopholes in a program that diverts addicts out of prison and into rehabilitation, charges the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the San Francisco Examiner reports. The 10-year-old Drug Court funnels about 200 people a year facing criminal prosecution for drug possession, drug sales of up to 2 grams, and non-violent felonies into six-month drug rehabilitation and jobs programs. The court’s procedures encourage savvy dealers to commute to San Francisco from around the Bay Area, allowing hardened criminals to avert jail, said veteran drug prosecutor Russ Giuntini. “What it has done is created kind of a haven for dope dealers,” Giuntini said. “A large percentage of these people are sellers. Essentially they get a pass for a very serious offense.”
Proponents of the drug court say the dealers are exactly the type of people the city must help to stop the cycle of crime on the streets. “They’ll go back to this revolving door, get arrested, spend time in jail, get out and can’t work because of the conviction and go back to selling drugs,” said Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who has seen no evidence of people abusing the program. Drug Court coordinator Anne Marie Engels said of graduates since 2000, 15 percent were re-arrested after the first year, compared to 51 percent of defendants prosecuted in the criminal justice system. Ninety-three percent of graduates have stable income and housing, she said.