NM Drug Court Program shows mass success rate

NM Drug Court Program shows mass success rate
Donna Mowrer, Ninth Judicial District Court Judge
Donna Mowrer, Ninth Judicial District Court Judge

Clovis, NM -  A drug court program in New Mexico is thriving and reportedly saving taxpayers a lot of money by treating drug offenders instead of sending them to jail.

In recent news, President Obama announced the release of thousands of non-violent drug offenders from jail to reduce over crowding and taxpayer dollars.

A drug court program in Clovis is a prime example that offenders with support from the community can stay out of jail for good.

Percy Herrera succumbed to a life of drug abuse and trafficking. She found herself time after time, behind bars, living a life she said wasn't what she wanted. But the pressure of the people she surrounded herself with kept pulling her back in.

"In prison, well there's drugs everywhere, there's drugs in prison, drugs out here, but at least out here you can go on with your life and get a job and do other things to try to better yourself," Herrera said. "When in there, it's just doing time."

Herrera is referring to drug court, which gave her the opportunity to serve her time out in the community, rather than behind bars.

Drug offenders are to appear in court twice a month before a judge, but the intensive program it doesn't stop there. It monitors the offenders every day for the next year.

"They do two drug court groups per week," Robin Miller, Program Director, said. "There is group counseling. They do one individual therapy session per week. They do two hours of outside support group per week and then they are subjected to anywhere from 2 to 5 drug tests per week."

Court probation officers also check in on participants of the program often, whether it's a work, within the community or at home. The Ninth Judicial District's program has proven to help 94 percent of graduates stay out of jail. This exceeds the 75 percent national average.

The program has also reported to not only help offenders, but taxpayers as well. The district drug court said the average drug court cost per client a day is about $40. Daily detention at a county detention center costs around $65, while the average daily cost of incarceration is about $93.

"We're saving taxpayer dollars with every person we get in the system," Donna Mowrer, Ninth Judicial District Court Judge, said. "So we are saving it on the front end, as well as on the back end when these people don't re-offend, so we are saving tax dollars. In fact, it's the best use of taxpayer money. For every $1 we spend, we save $4."

Herrera is proud to say the program gave her the opportunity to live again for her family. She is the 100th graduate of the program at 18 months clean and 3 months sober.

The program has also expanded into Portales, creating two full time adult drug courts.

The drug court program helps nearly 35 offenders a year.