The public is invited to the launch of the Fairfax County Drug Court program on Thursday, Sept. 20, at 2 p.m. in the fourth-floor jury assembly room of the Fairfax County Courthouse, 4110 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax. “As we embark on this new and important journey, I encourage the community to join us to find out more about the program, ask questions and share this information,” says Circuit Court Judge Penney S. Azcarate.
Drug courts are specific docket programs that target criminal defendants who have alcohol and/or other substance use disorders. Fairfax Circuit Court was approved by the Virginia Supreme Court Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee to establish a drug court in fall 2017. A multidisciplinary Fairfax County Drug Court Team has undergone comprehensive state and national training in preparation for the new docket, which is anticipated to begin in October. Team members include representatives from the following areas: prosecutors, public defenders, Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, probation, judge, clerk, evaluator and the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office.
The Fairfax County Drug Court is a felony probation violation phase progression model that takes a participant 14 to 24 months to complete. After an eligibility assessment, if selected, the participant will be ordered into drug court with the non-violent felony probation violation dismissed; probation will be terminated on successful completion of the program. This process takes place in lieu of jail.
Recognizing that substance addiction is a chronic and recurring disorder, drug court programs maintain continuous supervision over the recovery process of each participant through frequent court status hearings, urinalysis and reports from the treatment providers to the supervising judge. Drug usage or failures to comply with other conditions of the drug court program are detected and responded to promptly. According to the U.S. Department of Justice drug court evaluations, the recidivism of offenders who have been diverted to drug courts is reduced between 50 percent and 60 percent. Studies also have shown that, even with treatment costs included, drug courts saved localities an overall average of $5,600 to $6,200 per offender.
The Fairfax County Drug Court is one of several new Diversion First initiatives that offer alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders who come into contact with the criminal justice system. The goal of Diversion First is to intercede whenever possible to provide assessment, treatment or needed supports in order to prevent repeated encounters with the criminal justice system and promote a healthier community.
For further information and reasonable ADA accommodations, contact Drug Court Coordinator Sarah Gary.