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

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines 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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid