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Northern Hills Drug Court

General Description of a Drug Court: The Northern Hills Drug Court, the first in South Dakota, is based in Sturgis, South Dakota. This Drug Court focuses on the non-violent, adult felony offender who abuses controlled substances, including methamphetamine. The typical defendant has “one foot” in the penitentiary. Key operational features of a drug court include early intervention, increased court hearings, frequent drug testing, immediate sanctions, intensive supervision and monitoring; in short, pairing the coercive power of the court with effective treatment strategies.

The Northern Hills Drug Court: The Drug Court is unique. Essentially non-adversarial, participants (defendants) work with a team of individuals committed to the participant’s recovery. The Drug Court Team includes a Judge, State’s Attorney, Defense Attorney, Sheriff, Intensive Probation Officer, and Treatment Director. The Drug Court Team meets before each weekly drug court session and, in effect, acts as a multi-disciplinary case manager. The Judge imposes sanctions for any failure of full participation in the program. Sanctions include immediate incarceration, loss of privileges or demotion. Repeated or gross transgressors may be expelled and returned to the Sentencing Judge for disposition. Treatment includes the Matrix model for substance abuse and treatment for mental health issues. Northern Hills Alcohol and Drug is the primary therapy provider.

An Example: Jane Doe, a methamphetamine addict and mother of two minor children, is arrested for embezzling to fund her addiction. Her defense counsel, the prosecutor, Court Services Officer, and/or another interested party identify Jane as a potential Drug Court candidate. Jane elects to participate, completes an application and is screened to determine eligibility. The local State’s Attorney recommends Drug Court as a condition of probation. The Sentencing Judge, Jane’s attorney, and the Drug Court Defense Attorney ensures that Jane fully understands the Drug Court Program including her statutory and constitutional rights. Jane’s program begins immediately. Her life thereafter is intensively scrutinized, strictly monitored, and highly directed. If Jane progresses she will earn rewards, less scrutiny, more individual choices, and ultimately, graduation from the program. Jane has an individualized treatment plan. She comes to court every week to meet the Team and answer to the Judge. She frequently meets with her counselor(s) and probation officer(s). Jane is drug-screened at least 2-3 times a week at any time of day or night, at home, work, or elsewhere. She pays for all her drug-screening expenses and a portion of all her Drug Court costs. Jane spends 12-18 months in the Drug Court Program, graduates, and then transfers to “regular probation.” Jane stays sober, raises her children, keeps a job, and productively contributes to society.



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