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FINDING HOPE: County program offers felony offenders counseling treatment over jail time

Posted: 12:00 AM, Jan 28, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-29 05:18:13Z

According to the Department of Correction, the most recent estimated cost of housing an inmate in an Idaho prison is more than $55 per inmate per day. An offender out on probation? Costs less than four bucks.

A county program in the Treasure Valley aims to save the state money while helping offenders who are dealing with addiction. Instead of locking up addicts without proper counseling and treatment, the Ada County Drug Court program aims to keep offenders in their own community while seeking a sober life.

"A good share of our clients, the way they've been raised, is they've been raised by addicts," Ada County Drug Court substance abuse counselor Janette Day said.

The program allows individuals facing a felony the opportunity to stay out of jail while learning how to overcome addiction.

"A lot of people took it as in lieu of probation. It's in lieu of prison," Day said. "It's more intense than probation but keeps that person in the community."

Janette Day has been helping Idahoans through the county program for nearly two decades, aiming to steer adults and young teens to a better life.

"A lot of people die, a lot of these young kids die," Day said.

So, here's how it works: If the offender pleads guilty to their original charge and completes their program requirements over at least 14 months the charge will be dismissed. While enrolled, offenders participate in specific classes focusing on cognitive self-change, behavioral health and relapse prevention.

"We'll look at their thinking errors, where their thinking has gotten, like, 'Oh, I'm always picked on,' or 'Everyone's out to get me,' when those things really aren't true, it's just that they've been living a lifestyle that makes them seem true, and they learn to change that thinking," Day explained.

Throughout the process, participants are required to comply with regular drug testing and show up to court frequently, where supervisors, attorneys and probation officers gather around to discuss their main goal: "How do we help this person succeed?"

And if they're not succeeding with the opportunity they've been given, it's not always an automatic "get out of jail free" card.

"There are times where we have to say, 'Maybe we have to cut this person loose, they do need to go do their time,'" Day said.

The program in Ada County only has room for 229 defendants. Each participant must be charged with either felony possession of a controlled substance, a drug-related property crime, or be on felony probation with substance abuse problems.

For more information on the program click here .