District Court Judge Howard Recht, with the full support of Judge Jennifer Lint, has teamed up with County Attorney Bill Fulbright, Sheriff Stephen Holton, the Public Defender’s Office, and the Adult Probation and Parole Office to create Ravalli County’s first Treatment Court.
Treatment Court is a system intended to break the cycle of addiction, crime, and incarceration. Participants undergo a vetting process by the Treatment Court Team, including criminal history checks and assessments by substance use disorder and mental health professionals. Candidates with prior sexual offenses or violent offenses will not qualify for further consideration. The Treatment Court team will only consider candidates with felonious criminality surrounding the use of drugs, such as felony DUI and criminal possession of felony drugs.
If accepted into the Treatment Court program, attorneys will then agree upon a disposition wherein participants may have charges dismissed upon graduation from the program or some other type of deferred prosecution or sentencing. However, if a participant fails, they agree to the terms that will likely call for their incarceration through the Department of Corrections.
The Treatment Court program consists of five phases. The first phase, approximately 60 days, is called the Stabilization phase. In this phase, participants undergo the highest levels of accountability with drug testing a minimum of twice weekly, engaging with therapy for substance use disorder and mental health, and a requirement to appear before the Treatment Court Judge each week. At the hearing, the Judge will call on participants individually to discuss their progress. Participants’ successes are recognized, suggestions for improvement may be made, and sanctions are implemented if necessary.
The program was developed with three foundational principles:
1. Participants being candid with the Treatment Court Team.
2. Participants showing up to all programs ordered within Treatment Court.
3. Participants must continually demonstrate they are trying to succeed.
For a participant to be expelled from Treatment Court, the Team must agree that the program can do nothing further to assist the participant and the Judge agrees. To graduate from the program, the Team must agree the participant has met graduation requirements, and the Judge is the final arbiter. Graduation will take eighteen or more months to accomplish.
Treatment Court brings many facets of the community together to hopefully guide participants to be productive members of the Ravalli County community. With recidivism rates as high as 80 percent, many of the participants have been incarcerated multiple times in the Ravalli County Detention Center, at an estimated cost of $100 per day to Ravalli County taxpayers. Nationally, the Treatment Court program boasts success rates rivaling that of recidivism rates. The system Judge Recht and the Treatment Court team have developed is adapted to the Ravalli County community and thus far has shown positive results.
Judge Recht applied for and received federal grant money to get the program off the ground. Sheriff Holton and the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office provide the all-important drug testing program. Besides supporting the Treatment Court team, Bill Fulbright, the Public Defender’s office, and the Adult Probation and Parole Office provide the necessary legal framework to develop a disposition placing defendants into Treatment Court. No one on the team earns extra pay for their participation; these professionals believe in the program, and in most cases, work additional hours toward the program’s success.
The Treatment Court program is designed around incentives for participants to achieve successive steps toward graduation. The Team is asking for the community’s support by helping them raise $2000. The money will be put toward gas cards, groceries, or other incentives such as ice cream cones for the children in families adversely affected by addiction. These small token rewards for full compliance are instrumental in the success of participants in Treatment Court.
Donations can be sent to:
Treatment Court Coordinator
21st Judicial District Court, Dept. 1
205 Bedford St., Suite A
Hamilton MT 59840