By David Hollister
Plumas County District Attorney
I am grateful to report to you some success stories from our criminal justice system. Normally, I am sharing the status and results of criminal prosecutions – cases tending to focus on punishment and someone’s worst day – whether it be the victim or offender. Today, I want to share with you the outstanding work of Plumas County’s Drug Court. It is a pleasure to share these stories of success and redemption.
As background, Plumas County’s Drug Court has two components – the Community Justice Court and the Proposition 47 Diversion Program. These components share similar goals of rehabilitating low-level offenders suffering from substance abuse, but utilize different funding streams. Persons charged with serious and/or violent crimes, drug dealing, sex offenses and a host of other classes of more serious crimes are ineligible to participate in Drug Court so as to maintain Plumas County’s priority of public safety.
The goal of the Community Justice Court is to get offenders clean and sober, stop drug-related crime, reduce impaired driving and reunite broken families. The Proposition 47 Diversion Program is for participants to learn to live their lives without alcohol and drugs and for them to address the problems associated with alcohol and drug use, mental health needs and the criminal behavior which hurt them, their families and the community.
The Proposition 47 Diversion program is 6-9 months with 3 months of aftercare while the Community Justice Court lasts at least 18 months. The appropriate program for a willing applicant, charged with a lower-level crime, is based on an in-depth assessment of the person’s needs.
The Drug Court programs provide a variety services tailored to the individual. These services include intensive case management, individual and group therapy and counseling sessions, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), life skills training, vocational training and assistance, assistance in securing all necessary identification documents, health and wellness programs, cooking and nutrition classes, driver’s license assistance, educational assistance, housing and housing assistance and a variety of additional resources as they are identified for each individual participant. Accountability is also maintained with random drug testing and searches as well as frequent, in-person contacts by team members.
The Drug Court is primarily staffed by the Alternative Sentencing Program (ASP). ASP Manager Stephanie Tanaka has created, and manages, the award-winning ASP program and supervises the tireless hard work of case managers Samantha Rick and Brianna Martin. ASP is housed within the district attorney’s office yet operates with autonomy and works directly with the court, prosecutors, defense attorneys and resource providers. Housing ASP within the DA’s office has created a foundation for success – providing stability, logistical support and assisting in necessary offender accountability.
The Drug Court program could not exist, much less reach the level of success it has, without the significant contributions of its many partners. While administered by ASP, the Drug Court program is run by Superior Court Judge Janet Hilde. Additionally, Plumas County’s district attorney’s office and public defenders staff the court. Resources are provided by ReThink Industries, the Probation Department, Behavioral Health Department and the Sheriff’s Office. In an uplifting and positive act, we have seen deputy sheriffs attend and celebrate the Drug Court graduation of a person whose arrest they made began the Drug Court process.
While an overview of these programs might provide a glimpse of their benefit to the community, the proof of this success is found with individual participants. California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates, as of 2021-22, it costs $290/day to house an inmate. We all know, however, the cost of drug-related crimes goes above and beyond incarceration costs. Those addicted to drugs who commit crimes harm themselves, their families, their loved ones and the community as a whole. When we are able to rehabilitate low level offenders and break the cycle of addiction and criminality, we not only remove a person taking from the tax-payer, but create one adding to our community.
To fully appreciate the success of Plumas County’s Drug Court, here is a sample of some of the success stories. The names of the graduates have been removed and replaced with a generic John or Jane Doe pseudonym.
Jane Doe 1
Jane Doe 1 (JaD1) was arrested by a Plumas County Sheriff’s deputy in 2021. JaD1 was contacted by the police while JaD1 was with another person who was on searchable probation. JaD1 allowed police to search her purse. In the purse was a loaded (drugs inside) syringe, a meth pipe and two small bags of methamphetamine. When asked, JaD1 showed the deputy her arms which both had numerous injection wounds. JaD1 confided to the deputy she was an addict and needed help breaking her cycle of addiction.
At the time of the arrest JaD1 was homeless, unemployed and had lost custody of her children. In addition to substance abuse, JaD1 faced challenges stemming from a lifetime of trauma and generational criminality and substance abuse within her family.
JaD1 was charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance and was, eventually, admitted into the Community Justice Court portion of Plumas County’s Drug Court.
JaD1 is employed, taking college level classes, is sober, has addressed medical issues, is reuniting with her children and has established bank accounts. JaD1 has not been arrested nor has she had any negative encounters with law enforcement or the court system.
John Doe 1
John Doe 1 (JoD1) was arrested by a Plumas County Sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop. At the time of the stop the deputy was aware that JoD1 had been evicted, was homeless and was struggling with a methamphetamine addiction. During the traffic stop the deputy observed a meth pipe in a cup holder in JoD1’s truck. JoD1 was found to be under the influence of methamphetamine and a search of his vehicle found numerous loaded weapons, including some with high capacity magazines. While talking with the deputy, JoD1 shared he was a methamphetamine addict who smoked about ¼ of a gram each day.
At the time of arrest, JoD1 was homeless self-medicating to address an undiagnosed illness, was unemployed and fighting undiagnosed mental health challenges.
JoD1 was charged with possessing a loaded firearm while being under the influence of a controlled substance and was, eventually, admitted into the Community Justice Court portion of Plumas County’s Drug Court.
JoD1 has graduated Drug Court, is working full time, is in the process of buying a home, and has addressed medical, dental and mental health issues. Since graduating, JoD1 has not been arrested nor has he had any negative encounters with law enforcement or the court system.
Jane Doe 2
Jane Doe 2 (JaD2) was contacted be a Sheriff’s deputy following a request for a welfare check. The caller believed JaD2 was under the influence of drugs and might be harming her child. When contacted JaD2 indicated she was having a difficult time as she had been using methamphetamine, was pregnant and found herself irritable when coming off her meth high and having to parent a toddler. During the contact, JaD2 was found to be under the influence of methamphetamine and in possession of a syringe used to inject meth.
At the time of arrest, JaD2 was a pregnant IV drug user with a toddler who was homeless, unemployed and dealing with untreated trauma.
JaD2 was charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia and was, eventually, admitted into the Community Justice Court portion of Plumas County’s Drug Court.
JaD2 has been a rising star through Drug Court and after her graduation. JaD2 has secured independent housing, is working, has graduated from college, is reunited with her children, has repaired her family relationships and serves as a peer mentor for others. Since graduating, JaD2 has not been arrested nor has she had any negative encounters with law enforcement or the court system.
John Doe 2
John Doe 2 (JoD2) was contacted by a Sheriff’s deputy in 2018 after being seen stumbling down a street in Chester. The deputy believed JoD2 was under the influence of methamphetamine, which was confirmed by a urine test.
At the time of arrest, JoD2 was homeless, suicidal, had no health care though he was dealing with major medical issues, and had been a drug addict for 30 years.
JoD2 was charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance and was admitted into the Prop 47 portion of Plumas County’s Drug Court.
JoD2 graduated Drug Court, is addressing his medical issues, has secured housing, maintains a bank account and continues to lead a life of sobriety. Since graduating, JoD2 has not been arrested nor has he had any negative encounters with law enforcement or the court system.
Jane Doe 3
Jane Doe 3 (JaD3) was contacted during a welfare check for her and her child while the child’s father was in custody. When contacted, JaD3 appeared to be under the influence of meth but assured the deputy she had not used in three weeks. When confronted with the symptoms the deputy observed, JaD3 admitted a urine test would come back positive as she had used two days earlier.
At the time of arrest, JaD3 was an unemployed, habitual drug user who was dealing with family law and custody issues.
JaD3 was charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance and was, eventually, admitted into the Prop 47 portion of Plumas County’s Drug Court.
JaD3 graduated from Drug Court in 2019. She has now been employed in the community for three years, is living independently, has been sober for years and has full custody of her children. Since graduating, JaD3 has not been arrested nor has she had any negative encounters with law enforcement or the court system.
Jane Doe 4
Jane Doe 4 (JaD4) was stopped in 2019 while riding a bike in the middle of the road without a headlight while it was pitch dark out. JaD4 appeared to the deputies to be under the influence of a stimulant but denied using. A subsequent urine test confirmed meth in JaD4’s system.
At the time of arrest, JaD4 had been using drugs for years, was homeless, had lost all connections with her family, had untreated mental health, substance abuse and trauma issues and had no means of transportation.
JaD4 was charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance and was, eventually, admitted into the Prop 47 portion of Plumas County’s Drug Court.
JaD4 has graduated Drug Court and secured independent housing, re-established family relationships and is helping others with their sobriety. Since graduating, JaD4 has not been arrested nor has she had any negative encounters with law enforcement or the court system.
These stories are true successes. While the Drug Court Program and its many providers may have been a catalyst for these turnarounds, the reality is the participants had the drive, fortitude and courage to put the work in every day to end their individual cycle of addiction. No longer are these graduates taking from, and harming, our community. Instead, they are giving and becoming valuable members in Plumas County. While a successful graduate receives the dismissal of their criminal case, the real reward is far greater.
As we deal with the aftermath of Covid and the Dixie Fire, never has Plumas County needed an effective and successful Drug Court program as much as it does now. We have accomplished the hard part in establishing a model which works in Plumas County. Now is the time to take advantage of this solid foundation and forward momentum and work to grow the Drug Court program to meet Plumas County’s needs.