Cleveland Drug Court expects to do more

CLEVELAND (AP) - Cleveland's Drug Court offers addicts a chance to get their lives straightened out and have drug convictions expunged.
But results have been limited. Since its inception six years ago, the city court designed to help people overcome drug abuse and addiction has usually lacked adequate funding.
Last fall and winter, the court was so underfunded that it stopped accepting new cases.
A recent $1.2 million federal grant to Drug Court promises some relief. The federal funds will allow the court to increase its case load by 60 percent.
Every year up to 3,000 of the 16,000 people indicted in Cuyahoga County are eligible for Drug Court, co-director Dan Peterca said.
But the municipal court, usually run with $350,000 from the state and some Cuyahoga County and Cleveland Municipal Court contributions, has been able to afford about 70 cases annually.
Offenders receive intensive outpatient treatment, meaning they must meet with counselors, get frequent drug tests and report to probation officers weekly for more than a year. If they fail, Municipal Judge Larry Jones can impose a jail sentence.
If offenders successfully complete the treatment program, their records are expunged.
Cleveland's is one of 37 drug courts in Ohio and 547 nationally. The federal grant should help answer critics' questions about effectiveness by doing a more in-depth research, Jones said. The University of Akron's Criminal Justice Department will track Cleveland's participants.
Jones hopes to take the court countywide someday. He pointed out that Cincinnati's Drug Court, the first in the state, has two judges, sees about 325 cases each year and is paid for with $1.5 million from a county levy.
With that goal in mind, the Cleveland's Drug Court started a nonprofit support board a few months ago.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)