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.