Drug court helps offenders get 2nd chance to keep them from life - KMOV.com

Drug court helps offenders get 2nd chance to keep them from life behind bars

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ST. CHARLES COUNTY (KMOV.com) -

Offenders are getting a second chance to help keep them from a life behind bars.

The second chance comes from what’s called a treatment court, which has been up and running in St. Charles County for 16 years.

The drug court is not a free pass, those in it have to work hard and are held accountable.  

“I had a 30 year drug, alcohol abuse history and I got arrested for my fifth DWI, which was a felony and that is what landed me in drug court,” said Jim Honiker.

Honiker was headed down a dangerous path until he got his second chance.

“It introduced me to a way of life I never knew existed. It forces you into a period of time where you may not have sobriety, but you have dry time to where the cobwebs can clear and you can at least have some moments of clarity,” he said.

The prosecuting attorney’s office picks who can take part in the program.

“Usually, what we are looking for is someone who commits some sort of felony offense that involves the use of drugs or alcohol,” said St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney, Tim Lohmar.

Once accepted into the program, the work begins.

“The one thing that you have to be is honest. You have to be accountable because it is a zero tolerance policy,” said Honiker.

Lohmar added,” If people buy into it, and it’s a big if, it more often than not is successful for everybody. In a lot of cases, they won’t have a conviction on their record, face incarceration and some of them even get the case dismissed depending on the severity of the charge,” he told us.

He also said the recidivism rate is very low compared to the national average. Lohmar told News 4 the county’s rate hovers around 6 percent, where the national average is 25 percent.

Underling substance abuse issues are tackled head-on throughout the 12 to 18 month program.

“If you lock somebody up in jail for a few years and then they get out, you don’t address the underlying issues that took them there in the first place, they aren’t going to be better off,” said Lohmar.

Once completed, there’s a ceremony to cap off their journey.

“In the criminal system, on a regular docket, you deal with failures, people who are having probation revoked, going to jail because they can’t conform to our rules. It is great to give people in a structured environment the opportunity to reboot, to have success and then to go about and not end up incarcerated,” said Drug Court Judge Philip Ohlms.

Honiker is now involved in what is called the alumni program. It is in place to help graduates stay the course and keep in touch with one another.

“It gives me a lot of gratification knowing where I am now and seeing where these people are about to go,” said Honiker.

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