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A drug court program in Pennsylvania has brought on an uproar of criticism after a committee approved hundred of dollars to be used for an abortion. Blair County's Adult Drug Court is a sentencing program "used to help drug dealers and addicts kick their habits" but this particular use of funds was met with fierce resistance.
In its story, the AP summarized the woman's history and a drug counselor's decision as follows:
"The woman's parents had disowned her after she had her first child, and the woman became pregnant again. She had been in drug treatment for 18 months and the counselor was concerned she would relapse without the abortion."
Although Blair County Drug Court Committee explained that the funds for the loan did not come from taxpayer money but instead from a $5 per week fee that drug court defendants pay (the loan was actually repaid by an anonymous donor), the Committee nevertheless decided to take back the money after court officials complained.
Other county and court officials could not see a connection between an abortion and keeping someone off drugs. Indeed, County District Attorney Richard Consiglio said, "If it ever happened again I would shut down the program because I'm the one who recommends people, and if I don't recommend anybody there's nobody in the program therefore there's no program."
For anyone wondering generally what the difference is between a drug court and a regular criminal court, the Marks Law Firm, L.L.C., explains:
"Drug courts combine criminal justice and medical treatment models to deal with drug crimes. They recognize that incarceration may not be the most effective method for breaking the cycle of drug addiction and crime, especially for first-time and low-level offenders. Drug courts emphasize a cooperative approach between the prosecutor, defendant and court, and they favor rehabilitation over jail. Successful completion of drug court programs can result in reduced charges or sentences, or dismissal of charges altogether."
Thus, the Blair County Adult Drug Court program provides an alternative (complete or in part) to doing jail time for certain drug offenses. On the other hand, if an offender fails to complete the program successfully, the court can reimpose the original sentence. Although such programs in many cases have significant leeway on how they go about treatment in each individual case, they are not immune from oversight at a political level, as seen in Blair County.
Going back to the subject of Blair County, however, the president of the Committee, Judge Jolene Kopriva, provided assurances that such an approval would never happen again, and some county officials appear quite determined to hold her to that.