After years of trying cases in Mahoning County, Judge Jack Durkin began to see the inter-generational ties of drug abuse. At the time that this was becoming more apparent, he received information on the use of drug courts. After first being elected to the Common Pleas Courts in 1997, he worked with several government officials to create the county’s first drug court. The court, instead of imprisoning people immediately, attempts to treat the underlying cause of the drug issues.
“These people suffer from a disease, and that disease is addiction,” said Durkin. “Prison doesn’t work for this population.”
The program lasts about a year. The arrested individual must plead guilty to a felony, they have a case manager and they have to call a number every day to check in. They are subject to random drug tests. If they are not cooperating, they can be given community service, etc. The person must obtain a driver’s license, a GED or diploma and employment.
The face of addiction has changed. The average age of an addict has dropped from 35 years old to 23 years old in the past 19 years. As evidenced in daily newspapers, the drug of choice is now opiates and heroin.
“I don’t know if we are winning the fight or not, but we are not giving up,” said Durkin. He is working with a network of other courts and judges to maintain the best treatment and remain on the leading edge of it.