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Putnam County opens Adult Drug Court

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Tracy Jividen-Haynes got involved with drugs at a very early age. By 19, she was faced with a 56-count indictment and pleaded guilty to 12 felonies.

"Recidivism -- that was me. The revolving door, here I come. I was a probation violator, a three-time parole violator, a home confinement violator, an IV drug user," Jividen-Haynes said. I had done 10 years in the Department of Corrections. I opened Lakin [Correctional Center]. I was on the first bus in."

Once she got out of prison, Jividen-Haynes said she returned to drugs simply because she didn't know what else to do.

"I was afraid of what I didn't know. I had known how to get and use drugs. I'd been tucked away in a jail cell for 10 years, and what did I learn there?" she said. "All I learned were stories way worse than mine and what not to do when I got out. That's how real it was."

After "failing Day Report sideways," Jividen-Haynes said she left message after message with Kanawha County's Adult Drug Court because she knew she "desperately needed help," and after talking to counselors and staff there, felt she had found it.

"I thought, 'These people are really listening to me. These people really believe in me,'" Jividen-Haynes said. "They called me on my crap. I was drug tested three to five times a week. I needed that structure. I needed the tools to learn. I was in prison, now I'm out of prison, so now what?"

Now Jividen-Haynes, a graduate of Kanawha County's drug court program, has held a steady job for two years with Charleston Newspapers and lives in her own home. She also owns two pieces of property, a car, and lives with her husband and has custody of all her children. She said her experience with drug court helped her achieve it all.

"I just needed to be taught, because it was what I always wanted in my heart," she said. "I didn't always want to be a closet junkie with an IV in my arm. I wanted more; I just didn't know how to get there, and I met all these people who could show me. It wasn't rocket science. I just needed somebody who believed in me -- somebody besides my old dope buddy who needed a fix too."

Jividen-Haynes' success in Kanawha County Drug Court is something Putnam County Circuit Judge Joseph Reeder wants to replicate. Jividen-Haynes spoke at Putnam County's Adult Drug Court opening Monday in Winfield.

Reeder, who was elected in 2012, said the establishment of an adult drug court in Putnam County was one of the goals he hoped to achieve while in office. The drug court is already fully staffed and has accepted five participants for its first class.

"Drug addiction and drug abuse is something that affects all of us in one way or another in the county and throughout the state of West Virginia, and that's why we've been so focused on the founding of [Putnam's] drug court," Reeder said. "I don't think there are very many of us who haven't been touched in some way by drug addiction or abuse."

The adult drug court will be similar to other courts in West Virginia, as well as the juvenile drug court that already exists in Putnam County. In addition to a coordinator, the program will have a counselor and a treatment team, which will have representatives from the county's probation office, the prosecutor's office, the Sheriff's Department and other county agencies.

In West Virginia, the average cost for someone to be in a drug court program is $7,100 per year; the average cost of incarcerating someone in the prison system per year is $24,000, and a regional jail inmate costs roughly $18,000 to house.

According to Brent Benjamin, chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court, drug court is cost-effective and it works. Benjamin said of those incarcerated for drug offenses, 75 percent will re-offend. Of the more than 50 percent of offenders who successfully complete drug court, only 9 percent will offend again.

"That is an astonishing figure when you realize how difficult it is to kick drugs," Benjamin said. "It really is a testament to the hard work of the judges, the prosecutors, the law enforcement, the drug court team, the probation people. It's such a long list of people, but it is an amazing thing."

LaKeisha Barron-Brown, Putnam County's Adult Drug Court probation officer and a former counselor for the Kanawha drug court, said the first five participants were chosen based on the severity of their cases and the nature of their crimes. Drug court does not accept violent criminals or sex offenders.

"They have very intensive programming from the beginning until the end," Barron-Brown said.

Drug court lasts a minimum of 12 months, Barron-Brown said, and offenders will progress through three phases. Phase one requires offenders to meet daily for therapy, while the second phase requires less frequent visits. Phase three focuses on reintegration into society. Participants in drug court are also subject to random drug screenings each week, as well as random home and employment visits.

"I've heard it said over the years that drug court is soft on crime, and I hope there's no one in this room this morning who believes that, because that statement is simply made by folks who don't understand what drug court is all about," said Mike Lacy, director of the West Virginia Division of Probation Services. "The easy thing to do for the drug court participants would be to go to jail.

"The problem with that approach is, as we see overcrowded prisons in West Virginia today, and overcrowded jails on any given day, we see that what we've been doing hasn't worked when it comes to addicts. What we've discovered is that folks who go to jail and prison as addicts come out as addicts."

Benjamin said he has attended the opening of 22 drug courts covering 34 counties, and announced that Marion County has contacted the state about developing its own adult drug court. The West Virginia Supreme Court has told all judicial circuits to have an adult drug court in place by 2015.

For Benjamin, the payoff for the courts is obvious. He's seen medical doctors, lawyers, college professors, the children of judges and people from all walks of life fall prey to addiction.

"We've had drug addiction specialists in the program. We've had professionals and nonprofessionals. We've had all forms of folks come through the program, all because of one thing: Drugs don't discriminate who they go after," Benjamin said.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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