A day later, by chance, the Davis Enterprise also ran a story on drug court entitled “A Second Chance: Drug Court Offers Alternative to Prison.” It was different story, written by Lauren Keene, which chronicled a 44 year old alcoholic.
It would also be an amazing coincidence that they have done so following a period of sustained criticism against the District Attorney’s Office and the Yolo County Criminal Justice for being too harsh, for sentencing people unnecessarily, to too long a sentences.
Earlier this week, we saw a protest in Sacramento of people complaining about the 90 percent conviction rate that District Attorney Jeff Reisig brags about. We have seen lawsuits against the District Attorney’s office, calls for independent investigations.
So perhaps there was the sense that there needed to be a softening of the usual hardline image of Yolo County.
The Daily Democrat wrote:
“Drug Court Coordinator Florence Gainor gave the graduates and other like them a second chance. Gainor said she determines eligibility by separating the people who commit crimes to feed a drug addiction, from the criminals who also use drugs.
The program has operated in Yolo County since 1999, and is funded by grants from the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.
Yolo county’s Drug Court is unique in that program participants don’t necessarily face drug charges, but have committed crimes dictated by drug abuse.
Consequently, Yolo also has one of the most rigorous programs in the state.
The program is a benefit to the entire community because it effectively rehabilitates criminals, eases the burden on taxpayers, and supports local rehabilitation centers, according Gainor. Had Drug Court not been an option, the seven graduates collective 23 years of prison sentences would have cost taxpayers over $1 million.”
The Davis Enterprise wrote:
“Drug court coordinator Florence Gainor – the ‘whip’ behind the program, McAdam said – said the seven graduates faced a combined total of 23 years in state prison.
With the cost of housing an inmate estimated at $49,000 per year, drug court in this instance saved taxpayers well over $1 million, Gainor said.
Rarely is a visit to court a cause for celebration. But on Tuesday, McAdam’s courtroom was filled with joy, pride and laughter as members of the audience – some of them alumni of the drug court program – congratulated the graduates and wished them luck on the journeys ahead of them.”
Just the kind of stories that are needed for an institution badly in need of an image overhaul. Of course a cynic might point out that both articles cite just seven graduates of the program. We are not presented with any kind of statistical analysis to put those seven into context. We do not know how many go into the program, how many graduate, what period of time that seven represents, how many people drop out of the program, how many go back to prison later, what percentage of people who would go to prison end up going into drug court, and we could go on and on.
I do not wish to disparage the program or the accomplishments of the individuals that graduate from it because I believe we need more alternatives to prison. But these are both nice touchy-feely stories without much context or real substance that we can evaluate. I am suspicious about the timing of the stories, coming within a day of each other and I am also suspicious that they come at a time when the justice system is under fire. I am happy to learn more about the programs, but I’ll also note that I never received any kind of press release or contact for these kinds of stories which suggests that these reporters were handpicked because they knew they would get a puff-piece out of them and that the Vanguard would give them no such favors.
—David M. Greenwald reporting