WILMINGTON — The goal to launch a local drug court is on a fast track, said the judge who proposed the idea.
“I’m going to do this as fast as possible,” Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck said Thursday at the first meeting of the steering committee.
The next committee meeting is scheduled for Sept. 10, when Rudduck plans to hand out a sample of a suggested application needed to start a specialized docket for non-violent drug users.
Courts such as the one Rudduck and others want instituted here, he has said, are considered “therapeutic courts where the judge is at the head of the individualized treatment program to be established” for defendants who illegally use drugs.
Rudduck asked committee members Thursday to say a few words about their interest in the proposal.
His predecessor, retired Judge William McCracken who still sits on benches in the region by assignment, said he’s seen drug courts “in action in Montgomery County and, to a lesser extent, Hamilton County. I think it’s the best alternative we can go with.”
Art Brooks, retired from Wilmington College, said a drug court focusing on treatment rather than punishment is “a long-overdue concept.”
Private attorney and former Clinton County Public Defender Joseph Dennis said, “Treatment has got to be better than to warehouse someone in prison, in jail.”
Dennis also said, “My concern is — and this is maybe not as bad a problem in this county as it is in other counties — I believe that young African-American males have been singled out for prosecution, punishment, more so than people who are not African-American.”
Rudduck said he wanted law enforcement represented on the steering committee to help spell out the selection process of who should qualify for individualized treatment rather than prison or jail. Clinton County Chief Felony Prosecutor Brian Shidaker and Blanchester Police Chief Scott Reinbolt are committee members.
Shidaker sounded a note of caution. He said his “only concern” is that, while there is “definitely a percentage of people who need this [drug court],” many people who are “spreading the poison” by trafficking drugs “will mouth the words in court they have an addiction.”
Rudduck said that’s why he wants prosecution’s help “to discern serious commitment to sobriety.”
For those who “mess up” during treatment, the “hammer” of prison or jail is still there, the judge said.
Sugartree Ministries Director Allen Willoughby said many of the people who utilize services at that organization did not have a father figure or a stable family in their background. He thinks faith-based groups and individuals can provide part of the programming a drug court needs as resources.
“I’ve seen the churches the last 16 years radically change because we’ve learned to sit down and not always have all the answers, and just to listen,” said Willoughby, whose local street ministry began 16 years ago.
When the steering committee’s application is approved, a temporary certificate is issued that permits a start-up, according to Rudduck.
The judge anticipates his sample application document on Sept. 10 will be very similar to the drug court that exists in Delaware County, Ohio.
Gary Huffenberger can be reached at 937-382-2574, ext. 2512 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.