The first three graduates of the comprehensive Fairfax County Drug Court program will be honored at a ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 24, at 2 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax. The public is invited to attend. (Social distancing and masks are required.)
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay will deliver the keynote address. “We need to be treating those with addiction and reducing interactions with the criminal justice system. This program supports those two needs,” says McKay. “This is not an easy program and today, these graduates and their families have a great deal to celebrate.”
Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Penney S. Azcarate, who was instrumental in establishing the Drug Court, found that approximately 65% to 70% of her cases involved substance use. "If we can reduce substance use recidivism in our county,” she points out, “we ultimately can save lives — and money.” Studies have shown that, even with treatment costs included, drug courts saved localities an overall average of $5,600 to $6,200 per offender compared to incarceration. In addition to the graduates, there are some 20 participants currently active in the program.
Drug courts are specific court sessions, or dockets, for criminal defendants who have alcohol and/or other substance use disorders. In Fairfax County’s program, eligible participants have been convicted of a non-violent crime, are on probation and have come back into the court because of a felony probation violation related to substance use dependency disorders.
Participants enter the Drug Court program voluntarily and commit to close monitoring and following treatment recommendations, as well as regular communication with a probation officer, frequent court status hearings and routine drug screenings. The supervising judge receives regular reports from treatment providers about the participants.
The team members who oversee the Drug Court include prosecutors, public defenders, Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, probation officials, judges, clerks, evaluators and the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office.
The program is one of several Diversion First initiatives that offer alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders who come into the criminal justice system. The goal of Diversion First is to intercede with assessment, treatment and needed supports to prevent repeated encounters with the criminal justice system and promote a healthier community.
For information, contact Fairfax County Drug Court Coordinator Lanier Meeks Yi, 703-246-3238 (TTY 711).