Local News

Funding proposed to save 'Drug Court'

drug court King County Executive Gary Locke has proposed $90,000 in funding to keep alive the Drug Diversion Court through the rest of this year, and has designated $260,000 to help support the program in 1996. A federal cutback threatens the program.
    Under the leadership of King County Superior Court Judge Ric Martinez, drug defendants agree to enter a year-long program of counseling, random urinalysis, and one-on-one meetings with the judge.
    Those who successfully complete the program can have their charges wiped off their record, much like a deferred prosecution for drunk driving. Those who fail can still be brought to trial. Drug dealers are not eligible, it was noted.
    The first eight defendants to complete the program graduated earlier this month. The graduates came from the Eastside and Seattle, and included a wide range of backgrounds, from hard-core heroin addicts to prescription drug abusers.
    Early indications show that the rate of repeat offenses is lower for defendants referred to Drug Court. Most of the 25 people who enter the program each month are hard-core cocaine and heroin addicts with an average of nine prior criminal charges.
    King County launched the pilot program in August 1994 with $310,000 from the county, the City of Seattle, the state Department of Corrections, and the Interlocal Drug Fund.
    King County and Seattle jointly provided $401,656 for the first nine months of 1995 while awaiting word on a two-year grant from federal Crime Bill money that was denied in September.
    Locke now proposes continued cross-jurisdictional support in 1996 while permanent funding is found. For King County's part, he proposes a one-time $260,000 appropriation from the coun-ty's criminal justice funds. Seattle and the state are also considering contributions.
    The Regional Law, Safety and Justice Committee, the Suburban Cities Association, and the Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs have given their support to finding money to continue Drug Diversion Court.