KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — The use of "alternative courts" for people with particular needs or circumstances has paid increasing dividends over the past year for Klamath County, according to a statement from District Attorney Eve Costello.
Referred to as specialized courts by the National Instititute of Justice (NIJ), alternative courts in Klamath County include the Behavioral Intervention Court (BIC) for those facing mental health challenges, Family Court for parents and children involved with the Department of Human Services, Adult Drug Court for those with substance abuse issues, and Veteran's Court for those who have served in our Armed Forces.
"Alternative courts enable the criminal justice system to provide qualified participants a means of changing the path of their life," said DA Costello.
Data from the NIJ shows that there are still only a limited number of these specialized courts across the U.S. (with the exception of drug courts, which number above 3,000) — and some of the most effective examples are in Oregon.
According to Costello, the BIC court had six graduates in 2018. All of those individuals have demonstrated compliance with their prescribed medication and have received the support they need to "avoid future socially disruptive behaviors."
The Adult Drug Court program has seen 29 graduates since May of 2017. The program for offenders includes treatment, consistent drug tests, a schedule of frequent court appearances, and pursuit of education or employment — all over a period of at least 18 months, Costello said.
"If they fail to complete, they routinely end up on probation and serving the sentence they otherwise would have served, so community safety remains secured," DA Costello said. "And, individual hard work allows them to reap positive changes in their lives and avoid the original implications of a criminal conviction."
Klamath County's Family Court is reserved for parents and children with a pending DHS matter and a criminal matter, and participants need referral by a Judge. Costello said that the program had 11 parents graduate successfully in 2018, allowing them to reunite with their children.
Meanwhile, Klamath County's Veteran's Court was the first court of its kind in the state of Oregon, according to Costello. It has been handling current members of the Armed Forces or those who left under honorable conditions since 2010.
In 2018, the Veteran's Court had eight graduates — all participants who complied with court-recommended treatment conditions throughout the 18-month program.
"I know for a few of our more recent graduates, the court had an overwhelmingly positive impact on their lives and they are not only avoiding future criminal behaviors but are actively happier, and more engaged with the other aspects of their lives as well,” said Deputy District Attorney Ben Lykins, who leads the DA's office involvement with the court.