I came across the following article in a local newspaper in St.Johns, Arizona (click here):
“After violating the terms of his probation and failing to comply with the Apache County Drug Court Program, Brent Alexander Hargous has been sentenced to the Arizona Department of Corrections for a term of 18 years. “I am pleased with the sentence. The defendant was given a last chance in drug court and failed. Enough is enough,” said County Attorney Whiting.”
I was taken aback by the idea that a technical violation of Drug Court Rules (apparently failure to go to treatment and failure to return to court) could result in a sentence of that magnitude. Though I know not what the underlying offense was, it’s hard to imagine it to be too heinous, if Drug Court was the community alternative. And since the felon was in drug court, there’s the probability that his failure to follow the rules was the result of a serious drug dependency that he was not able to control.
This brings to mind a serious concern about Drug Court sentencing.. There has to be a sense of proportionality when sentencing felons for technical violations of Drug Court rules and regulations. Residential treatment and even county jai may be appropriate for even serious technical violations. But if prison is required, then let it be a rational and realistic prison sentence. Does Arizona really want to pay for 18 years of imprisonment for a drug court violator. There may be more here than meets the eye. But i hope that Arizona law allows the sentencing judge to return the violator to local control and rehabilitation after a short term in prison.
As discussed in many articles on this website, the use of “Front-End Reentry Courts” ought to be employed in cases like this one. Allowing the sentencing judge to return the felon to court for re-sentencing after a significant and hopefully rehabilitative (6 to 12 months) term in prison, makes sense in every way.
If you’ve been reading the blogs on this website, you probably figured out I’m a proponent of “Front-End Reentry Court” (FERC). And you probably know that Front-End jurisdiction already exists in most jurisdictions, and with FERC there’s little reason for conflict with corrections, parole or other agencies over control of exiting prisoners, and finally that it costs relatively little to incarcerate someone in jail/prison for 4 months as opposed to four years. But the most compelling of arguments for FERC, is that its “the best way to reduce recidivism by keeping the offender out of prison (or at least limiting the prison term substantially).
As President Emeritus, and advisor to NADCP’s Board of Directors on Reentry Courts, I was asked to follow-up on a paper I wrote several years ago on existing reentry court models (Ten-Prison Based Reentry Court Models). I had a very limited idea of where contacts between the courts and prisoners or ex-prisoners existed. Without that information, it seemed difficult for anyone to formulate a realistic strategy for using the courts to reduce recidivism and/or prison populations.
Over the past several months, I’ve contacted some forty-five states (give or take) and asked where those points of contact were. (See: The Importance of Jurisdiction in Court-Based Reentry). Looking at the data, a pattern became apparent. There were relatively few states that gave their courts jurisdicition to supervise offenders coming back from prison, but many (and i believe most) gave their judges authority to recall an offender within a statutory period of time for resentencing. Some courts were doing this on a case by case basis, while others were using short term prison sentences systemically, to do treatment and/or assessments.
I wrote up what I learned in a Chart that distinguishes between front-end (preentry), split-sentence, and post-prison reentry-based systems (including reentry courts). Now I’d like confirm and edit the information I have, finalizing the chart for publication.
Please click here for the DRAFT COURT-PRISON CONNECTION CHART . Review the information from your state. Email or telephone me with any mistakes there may be as to your state or any jurisdIction described. Add any reentry court or court reentry system you think may be omitted or misidentified. Help create a comprehensive CHART for all court-prison connections exisiting in the U.S. I will make the final corrected document available on this site, so that we all can understand the current status of court-based reentry systems in the U.S and their potential for prison reentry reform.
I’d especially like to know if your state gives its judges FERC jurisdiction: to recall a felon from prison for resentencing, after a brief prison term (typically 3 months to 1 year), to be returned to the local community for court supervision (possibly further incarceration): firstname.lastname@example.org