Fairly soon the new all-Republican Board of Supervisors will probably cut services to save money. Such debates are the basic business of government, and it is critical therefore that citizens offer their opinion.
Here are a few of my opinions about programs that don’t get enough public attention:
I have many favorite services: schools, libraries and the protection of vulnerable children, to name a few. For today, I’d suggest preserving one service and recommend another be fostered to save Loudoun County taxpayers money and reduce crime; but both are often attacked by the far-right on poor policy grounds.
Thanks to a 1997 initiative of the Loudoun County Circuit Court, the County developed by 2002 a plan for a Drug Court, responding to an uptick in adult drug offenders on court dockets, some of whom had not committed any violent act.
Then in June, 2004, the Loudoun County Adult Treatment Court launched a pilot program, which has since expanded and can accommodate 20 offenders. The system lowers the cost of government, saves lives and lowers crime, yet conservative critics want it cut. That’s a bad idea. The program works and fits the American model of forgiveness, allowing people a second chance.
In the art for this blog post, a woman is seen pulling on a drug-laced cigarette. Just think of how productive she would be without that drug, or others without other drugs, without alcohol, especially young adults, but really anyone in Loudoun. I find the critics very shortsighted on this matter.
Last December, as one of my last acts as vice chairperson of the Loudoun County Criminal Justice Board (CCJB), I attended the 13th graduation ceremony of the Loudoun County Adult Drug Court. It was very rewarding. We need the program. I recommend readers attend the weekly sessions of drug court. You will be impressed.
As a recent Loudoun Times Mirror article pointed out, the program isn’t cheap; but $31,400 for annual treatment is almost half the cost of locking up an offender for a year. That cost is $61,159. And jail doesn’t rehabilitate as well as this program; so speaking as a former economist, I’d say this program is a great investment.
Another program that should be adopted but has faced harsh pushback by conservatives is the proposed Public Inebriate Center. Back in 1982 enabling legislation was passed (needed because we are unfortunately a Dillon State) for localities to establish public inebriate facilities, essentially places for public drunks to be housed safely in lieu of the more expensive and time-consuming option of arrest and jail time. The Loudoun County Community Criminal Justice Board (CCJB) has long believed that jails are an inefficient use of Sheriff Deputies and place an unwarranted burden on the tax payer.
We recommended a public inebriate center as a sound alternative to incarceration for public drunks and had even studied venues. Just from a strict cost/benefit analysis, the idea is common sense. We can get drunks off the street into a safe location at a much lower cost than what is now done.
Unfortunately, some conservative critics have taken a moral tone, feeling public drunks deserve to be placed in jail, with murders, rapists, thieves, etc. They forget that these people are often alcoholics, and alcoholism is a disease requiring treatment, not punishment. Unless these people have also committed a violent crime, it makes no sense to put them in jail. The taxpayers save money and drunks in the tank won’t be walking in front of cars, risking lives.
Where I differ with the program is that it won’t diminish the number of drunks, so let’s also ask the courts to manage a treatment program. That will further reduce the problem and increase public safety. My recommendation to the Board of Supervisors is to not only fund this program, but expand it, in the public interest for safety and to reduce the cost of government.