'Operation Rio Grande' Creates New Drug Court For Those Struggling With Addiction

Sep 18, 2017

For 35 people arrested as part of Operation Rio Grande, a new specialty drug court is providing an alternative to the traditional court process.

Drug courts are specialized court programs that provide treatment and therapy in addition to monitoring and supervision. After successful graduation from drug court, the criminal charges against participants are dismissed.

“Today marks another important milestone in our work to expand treatment for eligible individuals who have been arrested as part of Operation Rio Grande,” said Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County mayor. “We know that not everyone arrested through Operation Rio Grande is eligible for the treatment and drug court option, and we would be squandering resources, truly, if we did not utilize the treatment beds to maximize its effectiveness with those who are ready to receive help.”

Drug court is only available to people who meet certain criteria. Candidates for drug court must be adults with felony charges and no history of violence.

Once a candidate is accepted into the drug court program, they’ll enter a plea of guilty to the charges brought against them, which is held in abeyance until successful completion of the program. The program costs $1,200 and takes a minimum of a year to complete, with six months of drug testing afterward. The process includes treatment, frequent and random drug testing and supervision, along with rewards and sanctions for compliance or non-compliance.

A 10 year study by the National Institute of Justice found that drug courts can lower re-offense rates and significantly lower costs.

Sim Gill, Salt Lake County District Attorney, said investing in therapeutic justice is a down payment on necessary criminal justice reform.

“Jailing individuals as a broad criminal justice policy is a recipe for disaster,” Gill said. “I am happy to say we have individuals here who are making the policy commitment and the resource allocation for therapeutic justice because it works. It is our way out of this situation.”

The specialty drug court is part of phase two of Operation Rio Grande, which focuses on substance use treatment to end the cycle of addiction, jail and homelessness.