Association of Prosecuting AttorneysMay 16, 2012
Vermont Drug Program Wins Praise
In fewer than two years, Chittenden County's top prosecutor has diverted hundreds of criminal suspects out of court and into drug treatment programs. The practice, touted as a means to lower recidivism rates and save taxpayer money, has garnered support from Vermont lawmakers and law enforcers, as well as a national organization of prosecutors. Gov. Peter Shumlin praised Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan and Mary Alice McKenzie, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington, Tuesday for pitching the "rapid intervention" program to legislators two years ago. "As governor, I want to see it applied to every courthouse in Vermont," Shumlin told reporters at the Costello Courthouse in Burlington on Tuesday. Donovan said the program accepts only nonviolent offenders, generally accused of writing bad checks or otherwise stealing to support drug addictions. Since September 2010, 624 criminal suspects have enrolled in the program. To date, 482 have completed treatment. Of those, 66, or 14 percent, have reoffended. The program, though still in its infancy, will maintain a lower rate of recidivism than the Department of Corrections, Donovan said. According to Corrections, 66 percent of inmates released from prison reoffend and return to jail within three years. Donovan said his office generally requires suspects enrolled in the program to undergo 90 days of treatment, at a cost of about $95 a day. Comparatively, incarcerating a suspect costs $180 a day, he said. "I've got no problem sending people to jail," Donovan said. "People who need help, we get them help. That's what this program's about."