Drug Court Gives Participants a Chance for a New Life

Judge Vic Miller Drug Court Boulder City, NevadaDrug abuse and alcoholism are common afflictions in society today and sadly, won’t be going away any time soon. With drug use comes a host of other legal challenges like DUIs, petty crimes, fractured families. Once people are caught in the cycle of drug abuse, it can be a very difficult cycle to break free from. Fortunately for those who live in Boulder City, there is an option available: Boulder City’s own Breaking the Cycle Drug Court, spearheaded by our own Judge Victor Miller.

The diversionary program was started because there “was a need for intervention and treatment for individuals suffering from substance dependency as opposed to criminal penalties. It was noticed that numerous defendants would appear before the court multiple times related to their suffering from alcohol and chemical addiction. The court felt that rehabilitation would better serve the community and defendants,” according to Cindy Garcia, Court Administrator.

This specialized court is a team of professionals who assist participants in not only getting clean from the drug of their choice, but also help them rebuild their lives and become productive citizens again. It isn’t an easy path, and there are failures along the way, but Boulder City boasts an 80% completion rate for the program. Nationally, in the 300 or so drug courts nationwide, that figure is more like 20%.

The Drug Court program was started in 2014 with a grant from the Boulder City Sunrise Rotary (read more about that HERE). They also received grant funding and financial support from the City and State. The court was initially modeled on the Las Vegas Drug Court, started by Judge Jack Lehman in 1992. The Las Vegas Drug Court was the third one established in the United States. Now we have a program tailored to our community, but following the best practices and procedures set forth by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP).

Judge Victor Miller, Court Clerk Kelley Fulton, and the other members of the court who monitor and supervise participants attend training provided by the NADCP every other year. Also on the Breaking the Cycle team are a social worker, psychologist, peer support member, case manager, court-appointed attorney, and Police Department liaison. It takes these committed professionals to assist the participants.

In order to be eligible for the program, defendants must meet the following criteria:

  • 18 years old or older
  • Habitual offenders
  • Unstable housing
  • History of substance abuse related charges
  • Unemployed or underemployed
  • Adjudicated guilty on the charges but sentenced to a suspended sentence where the law permits
  • Recommended for the Breaking the Cycle as part of their plea agreement
  • Dependency on drugs and/or alcohol
  • Ability to participate in all Drug Court activities and programs, as assigned

It’s not easy to complete the requirements of the Drug Court. The successful participant will be able to meet the following goals and objectives:

  • Obey all laws and avoid getting into any new legal trouble.
  • Have regular testing of breath/urine to screen for alcohol and/or other drug use.
  • Attend all scheduled meetings, treatment sessions and other counseling assigned by the Judge.
  • Be on time for those meetings; tardiness is not tolerated.
  • Do what the Judge orders as part of the treatment program.
  • Follow the rules, conditions, and expectations of treatment plan as developed by the Case Manager and Treatment Provider.
  • Talk with a Case Manager or other members of the Drug Court Team when circumstances require it.
  • GPS monitoring (house arrest) and/or SCRAM monitoring.
  • Complete reading and writing assignments.
  • Sign the Participation Agreement along with the written consent to allow the Drug Court Team to discuss all information that is related to participation and treatment.
  • Waive 4th and 5th Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and self-incrimination while in the program.
  • Weekly individual counseling and group counseling.
  • Attend sober fellowship meetings, such as AA/NA or Smart Recovery.
  • Complete all phases of the program successfully.

There are checks on participants at 30-day intervals as participants continue through the phases of the program.

According to Judge Miller, the community also benefits in the following ways:

By assisting participants with recovery, we are not only helping them, but possibly helping to break a cycle of addiction. The saying “addicts breed addicts” however crass, is an unfortunate reality. Giving participants the tools, they need to deal with triggers and situations will be passed on to future generations. The Breaking the Cycle Court helps bring community awareness to a growing problem through outreach and support. As it says on the courtroom bench and is reiterated throughout the program “Show me your friends and I will show you your future”. By providing a positive alternative to jail, the City receives reduced expenses for incarceration. As the focus is to reduce recidivism, the City saves on future jail costs and community residents have less crimes committed against them.

One of the more difficult aspects of the program is gathering enough funding to make it possible. The costs for the various professionals needed to monitor and provide support can be daunting for a small court system, like Boulder City’s. The court clerk and judge continually look for grants and programs to assist them in funding the court.

To date, nearly 50 participants have graduated from the program. The next program graduation will be held on May 16, 2023 and the public is welcome to attend.

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