News / USA

'Hug a Thug' Beats Prison or Probation

Innovative program more successful at rehabbing jailed addicts

Nearly 250 addicts have taken part in Boulder's integrated treatment court since it began in November 2006.
Nearly 250 addicts have taken part in Boulder's integrated treatment court since it began in November 2006.

Multimedia

Audio
Shelley Schlender

The need for drugs and alcohol - or the desire for money to buy them - can drive addicts to robbery, domestic violence and other crimes. Many people consider jail time the best way to keep them from committing more offenses. But an innovative program that focuses on addiction recovery is proving more successful than incarceration at rehabilitating addicts and reducing repeat crimes.

At the Boulder County Courthouse in Colorado, Carol Glowinsky sits at her judge's bench dressed in her official black robes. She is speaking with a woman who's been convicted of crimes motivated by her drug and alcohol addiction. But their conversation sounds more like a therapist talking with a client.

Glowinsky praises the woman for getting a job. "One thing we talked about last time was anxiety, and starting a new job is a great thing to focus on." They go on to discuss how the woman is handling the new responsibilities and staying sober.

To avoid jail, the woman has chosen to enroll in the Integrated Treatment Court.

Probation, with a twist

The 15-month program is similar to probation, with drug and sobriety tests as well as addiction counseling. But there is an important difference. Usually, therapists are required to keep their conversations with clients confidential. However, in integrated treatment cases, they speak openly with Glowinsky, probation officers and other members of the team. "It's the heart of the model that you get a full picture," says Glowinsky. "A lot of people with addictions are good at deception and the model doesn't let you get away with it since we all talk every couple of weeks."

Carol Glowinsky is one of several judges in Boulder County, Colorado who is involved in the integrated treatment court program.
Carol Glowinsky is one of several judges in Boulder County, Colorado who is involved in the integrated treatment court program.

This team approach also leads to more supportive courtroom conversations. Glowinsky nods with understanding as the young woman admits that what's keeping her away from drugs is the fear of going back to jail. "Early on," Glowinsky tells her, "having a really concrete thing like jail helps people stay clean."

About a dozen people sit in the courtroom's spectator's section listening. Each is an addict who's been convicted of a crime. Each will have a turn to talk with Judge Glowinsky.

Coddling a criminal?

When Glowinsky wraps up her session with the young woman, she gives her a gift card for movie tickets, a small reward for the woman's progress so far. Recovered addicts say they often cherish these tokens from the judge.

But that sort of incentive makes some law enforcement officers cringe. "They called it 'hug a thug,'" says Deputy District Attorney Debbie Welsh. She prosecutes people accused of crimes and points out that those gifts are being given to people who've been convicted. "Some of them have stolen items from people and owe them restitution. And the thought of handing this person a $20 gift card when they still owe a victim $2000 can really grate on you, at least as an initial reaction."

But as a member of Boulder's 4-year old integrated treatment team, Welsh has become a fan. Compared to standard probation, she says this model is much more successful at helping addicts stay sober, get a job and follow through on paying restitution. And, its graduates are 35 percent less likely to commit another crime, compared to people sentenced to prison or probation.

Success stories

Statistics like that have helped raise interest in this approach. The National Drug Court Institute reports that more than 2,000 U.S. courts follow this model. Worldwide, ten countries now have similar programs.

Here in Boulder, August Turner is one example of how well the integrated treatment court program can work. He was an addict who spent 30 years in and out of jail, until three years ago, when he signed up for the program.

Turner is proud that he has not relapsed. "I owe that to the people that had great faith in me," he says. Turner has paid back $20,000 in restitution he owed for previous crimes. He now holds a full-time job and has become a leader for programs throughout the county that help addicts stay clean and sober. "I am different now," he says with a laugh, "I'm the person that I probably always wanted to be."

Improving lives and bottom lines

Boulder Sheriff Joe Pelle says that, by reducing repeat offenses, the integrated treatment court makes the county safer and it's saved money. He points out that when he became sheriff seven years ago, the jail population was growing at an average of around 4 or 5 percent per year.

"Since we've done integrated treatment court and the mental health program and a number other things, that growth-in-jail rate has stabilized. People are still committing crimes but they're being treated differently. As a result, they tend not to come back as frequently."

He shrugs off criticism that the integrated treatment model is soft on criminals. "Yeah. It might be," he admits. "And maybe that's why it works."

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs