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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid