The specialized docket court of the Portsmouth Municipal Court has earned final certification from the Ohio Supreme Court’s Commission on Specialized Dockets.
In order to receive the certification, the local court had to submit an application, undergo a site visit, and provide specific program materials in response to certification standards that went into effect in January of 2014.
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor congratulated the Portsmouth Municipal Court and Judge Russell D. Kegley for receiving final certification.
“Specialized dockets have proven effective at addressing persistent criminal behaviors,” O’Connor said. “Specialized dockets resujlt in significantly lower recidivism rates which means offenders become productive members of society, for which we all benefit.”
Kegley said he created the Drug Court after watching the success of Judge William T. Marshall’s Scioto County Common Pleas Drug Court.
“I sat around a while watching because I was, at first, one of the skeptics,” Kegley said. “After watching his for a few years it’s apparent how well it works. He has had one person who has graduated reoffend over 10-12 years. Right now we’re lucky we haven’t had any of ours reoffend since they graduated.”
Specialized dockets are courts that are dedicated to specific types of offenses or offenders and use a combination of different techniques for holding offenders accountable while also addressing the underlying causes of their behavior. There are more than 150 specialized dockets in Ohio courts that deal with such issues as drugs and alcohol, mental health, domestic violence and sex offenses.
“We have just become another level of accountability for them (offenders),” Kegley said. “So many of these folks have told us that in an of itself has helped them stay in line because we have so many people on a drug court panel and we’re all out in the community. They see us there and we’re almost like another set of parents that they don’t want to disappoint.”
Kegley cautioned that when individuals go through the rehabilitation process it is sometimes a series of ups and downs.
“They’ll be going along well for a while and then the nature of the disease is you slip back,” Kegley said. “With us they have to answer to that and we do have some sanctions but they know that they’re going to be able to come right back and be accepted just as they were before and get the opportunity to keep moving forward.”
Kegley said the certification process is rigorous and it is vitally important work they are doing, work that needs to be done correctly.
“The Portsmouth Municipal Court Drug Court owes a huge debt to all of our members, but particularly to Dee Jackson, the Court Reporter and Assignment Commissioner, and Mark Malone, Chief Probation Officer who worked tirelessly for more than a year to shepherd us through certification,” Kegley said.
Kegley said his drug court will have a graduation on Thursday, March 31
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.