Judge Joseph Reeder
Hon. Joseph K. Reeder
29th Judicial Circuit

Reeder / Lilly / Barron-Brown

Pictured with Judge Reeder are Leslie Lilly (Program client, center) and Program Coordinator LaKeisha Barron-Brown.

Circuit Judge Joseph Reeder
Drug Court program battles addiction

January 24, 2017

"The Adult Drug Court is the largest and most successful diversion program that we have going on for drug offenders," Judge Joseph Reeder told Rotarians during their luncheon meeting today.

"About ninety percent of the people we deal with in the criminal system in Putnam County," he said, "their case in one way or another is related to drugs."

Many of these people are addicts, he said. The Drug Court program seeks to assist those who are at high risk for continuing their drug dependency.

Without help to overcome addictions, most of the victims will commit more crimes to support their habit. And they will be back before the court.

Drug abusers without addiction are not placed in the Drug Court program.

"They're not successful in the program for a number of reasons," he continued, "primarily because they tend to be dealers.

"We don't want to create a market for them by putting them with a group of addicts."

Clients in the program pay a fee for the service.

The program usually runs from eighteen months to two years, and graduates must be gainfully employed or attending school. They are subject to frequent random testing, and they must prove clean for at least six months.

The Adult Drug Court in Putnam County began in 2013, and two years ago the Legislature required the program in every judicial circuit in the state.

"Statistics show that the program works and that it saves money." Reeder said. "It saves an average of several thousand dollars a year per defendant to be in Drug Court as opposed to incarceration.

"It costs about $7,000 a year to put someone in Drug Court. It costs $48.50 a day [$17,654 per year] to keep someone in the regional jail. It's significantly cheaper, plus -- it's more effective.

The program has been supported by law enforcement and the "defense bar," he said. "We've had buy-in from Sheriff [Steve] Deweese, from [Prosecuting Attorney] Mark Sorsaia. . . . More importantly, we've had buy-in from the community. We've had a number of church groups that have been helpful to us. . . . . A total of fifteen employers around the county have, at one time or another, employed one or more of our folks."

The rate for relapse into addiction in Putnam county has been about 8.5 percent, lower than the state [9.4 %] and national averages.

Attending the luncheon with Judge Reeder were LaKeisha Barron-Brown, Putnam's Drug Court Coordinator, and Leslie Lilly -- "one of the people who has lived the program."

Barron-Brown describes herself as "the eyes and ears of the Court," in charge of day-to-day operation and supervision in the program.

There is intensive individual counseling and group counseling, with daily access to a therapist, she said today.

In the beginning, the clients "are required to be with us every day . . . anywhere from eight AM to four o'clock PM. They are being monitored, they are expected to have random drug screens, at least two to three times a week . . . and sometimes more.

"They're also expected to do community service throughout the community. . . . They are placed on GPS home confinement.

"I'm also monitoring them on computer so we can be sure they're exactly where they're supposed to be."

"I show up unannounced," she said, "as early as seven o'clock in the morning, sometimes on a Saturday or a Sunday -- as late as midnight on a Thursday."

Wicker Rotarian Jim Wicker hosted his daughter Leila Wicker as a guest at the Rotary luncheon meeting today.

There are regular appearances before the court, and there may be incentives for good reports and penalties for bad reports. "Sometimes they may have to go to jail for a few days just to get their attention."

A special "active care" program follows graduation for about six months. There is attendance at counseling meetings twice a month and random unannounced drug screening during this time.

"Once we are away from their lives, we want to make sure that they have the courage and self-esteem -- the tools necessary not to go back into a life of addiction."

Leslie Lilly is a graduate of the Adult Drug Court program. She's now 25 years old, and now gainfully employed and drug-free.

"I started using when I was about 16," she told her Rotary audience. "I didn't grow up with addict parents; I wasn't with bad people. I chose that [lifestyle] in high school.

"I met a guy, and he used -- so I used with him."

Leslie entered the Drug Court program, but she had problems. "Judge Reeder told me that if you don't get it right, there's going to be a termination hearing.

"So I went to jail for six days. I remember sitting in that jail for six days sitting there thinking, 'What are you doing? You've been offered a second chance at life. You'd better grab it and go with it.'

"So that's what I did."

She went back to the beginning of the program. "It seemed like forever!" she admitted.

She held a job in a fast food restaurant. "It was a humbling experience," she said. "I had never held a job that long before. But here I am at 25. and I don't want to do this the rest of my life."

Leslie was encouraged by Counselor Barron-Brown to go to school. She did. And she learned the skills needed for counseling others in addiction.

"I still go to meetings for addiction counseling," she said. "I am not required to go, but I love talking to other clients.

"People who have never dealt with addiction can't know what it's like. How can you stay clean after living the way I did?

"I'm going to live happy, regardless. I praise God for all of it." And perhaps the the Adult Drug Court program helped to point the way.

As Leslie concluded her testimony, she received a standing ovation from her audience.

      Rotarian Cyndee Adkins has prepared a video of the program today. To access the video, click HERE!     

More Putnam Rotary News? Click HERE.