March 4, 2004 at 1:01 p.m.
Non violent, youthful offenders are being targeted.
Rancourt said a team is meeting weekly and completing special training funded through the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs and U.S. Department of Justice in collaboration with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Rancourt is chair for this effort in the Tenth Judicial District. The training should wrap-up this summer.
When training is finished the local team goes to step two-- applying for $250,000 in grant money to get the local juvenile drug court up-and-running.
According to Judge Rancourt, drug cases involving a minor-aged offender more than doubled here between 1993 and 1998. He explained that Minnesota Chief Justice Blatz began “looking for ways to address chemical issues,” a couple years ago. It was up to the district courts to pick up the ball and run with it-- or not. Seven counties in Minnesota have recently set up drug court for juveniles.
Rancourt explained that the prevalence of drug activity has worked its way into lives of children who are brought up by adults mired in the drug culture.
The drug court method will help to break the cyclical and escalating nature of incidents that begin when offenders are as young as 9 or 10 years old.
Drug court will rely on a more family-oriented process for addressing a juvenile incident. “This is not only for the child,” said Judge Rancourt, “but family members will be drawn in too.”
Rancourt added that the function of drug court is that chemical issues are addressed more comprehensively and the emphasis is on the atmosphere that creates failure for a juvenile and promotes lack of accountability.
First offense, last offense...
If you consider it is $28,000 a year to house an offender at Lino Lakes, $26,000 per inmate at Rush City and at Oak Park Heights (maximum security) it’s now $52,000 per inmate annually, just the incarceration cost-savings are substantial looking long term, Rancourt maintained.
Rancourt said drug court participants will be in for an approximate 12 to 18 month period, under greater supervision than normal, with many more court appearances required.
The best results will almost certainly come through consenting participants, but the judge said court-ordered participation can also be utilized. “The goal is to halt the behavior early,” he added.
You’ll be seeing more information in coming months on ways the public can become active and support this effort.
The Chisago County Board of Commissioners has already expressed it will, as a matter of policy, support government staff working in probation, the courts, Health and Human Services and law enforcement toward implementing this approach. Also involved in the planning endeavor are Public Defender Peter Grundhoefer and LaVonne Vayder, program coordinator for Chisago Lakes School District Pathways-to- Change.