Coconino County, Arizona has been making very progressive steps towards inclusive employment and restorative justice in their county.
This week and the last, I have been learning about their justice system. I was not able to take much pictures because most of the places I went to didn’t allow phones.
The jail tour did not seem like it was a jail tour. It was like going around dormitories. The cells inside the jail were really clean, organized, humane and the officers were very friendly, there were recreational facilities (a free space with small balls), and group dynamics areas.
THE EXODUS PROGRAM
Exodus is the in-custody Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program. The program helps inmates come to the realization they have a substance abuse or addiction problem, involve inmates in their own problem solving and development and educate them about the physical and mental effects of substance abuse/addiction.
Jail treatment staff collaborate with probation and treatment and social service agencies county wide. A housing unit is dedicated to this program to provide a positive peer environment, housing only those inmates in the program. The most effective location is one where there is no auditory contact with inmates not involved in the program.
Before they are releases back to the society, they are equipped to identify and develop relapse prevention skills, develop positive social behaviors, improve their life skills and parenting skills, learn to build pro sobriety support networks, and decrease recidivism. The potential benefits to be gained by providing these services can positively affect inmates, their families, our community and county.
“BAN THE BOX”
In May 2017, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the “Ban the Box” resolution. The said resolution stated that the County will no longer require disclosure of prior criminal history on initial job applications. Although the national program started in 2004, the Coconino County is the first in Arizona State to implement it. They also encourage private business owners and employers to do the same.
Being a law student back in the Philippines, I have a working knowledge on various justice systems and courts in different jurisdictions. When I was told I was being brought to a recovery court- which is a drug court, I thought of law enforcement drug cases among other things. But what surprised me is that the Recovery Court was not just a law enforcement court, it was a court which practices restorative justice.
This court promotes recovery, abstinence and accountability through a court-supervised treatment program which reduces crime, improves community safety and leads to a healthier, more productive lifestyle.
As Judge Reed aptly explained, the court is for high-need (for substance abuse treatment) and high-risk (of failing traditional supervised probation) drug dependents.
The Recovery Court includes a four-phased, highly structured and intensive program lasting a minimum of 1 year. These phases are Stabilization and Orientation; Intensive Treatment; Relapse Prevention; and Maintenance.
Moreover, the court is designed to promote self-sufficiency and to return the convict/ offender to the community as a productive and responsible member.
THE POSSIBILITY OF HAVING A RECOVERY COURT IN THE PHILIPPINES
The Philippine Government, through President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, launched a drug-war. But since then, the “war” has only been successful in identifying who were drug users and pushers. There have not yet been major development as to what happens to the surrenderees after they surrender.
It is my hope, and I plan to advocate this program when I get back home… to set up a Recovery Court. To help drug users to lead better lives.