S.T.A.C.: Rehabilitating lives

MIKE McGEE | 5/26/2017, 4:21 p.m.
On the surface, the Successful Treatment of Addiction through Collaboration graduation ceremony, held May 12, was a yearly ceremonial statement ...
Judge Gracie Lewis embraces a graduate of the Successful Treatment of Addiction through Collaboration Court May 12 at the Frank Crowley Court Building. Mike McGee

The Dallas Examiner

On the surface, the Successful Treatment of Addiction through Collaboration graduation ceremony, held May 12, was a yearly ceremonial statement that 27 felons arrested between 2008 to 2012 had completed their drug rehabilitation and, in some cases, were also being freed from probation. Yet to those individuals exiting the S.T.A.C. program – in robes, seated in the front of the jury room at the Frank Crowley Courts Building, accompanied by friends and family – the affair was much more than just show; it represented personal success, a message of forgiveness from society at large in exchange for their labors, and the offer of a second chance at a better life in appreciation for confronting their demons head-on.

“They’ve truly given me a chance to start my life over and change my life, and I have truly done that, and I’m so grateful,” said 2017 graduate Kristina Brown. “The S.T.A.C. Court program and my second chance has helped me to do that, and truly change the way that I think, the people that I surround myself with, and just my actions.”

The court was created in January 2007 by Judge Lela Mays, who presides over it along with Judge Gracie Lewis, according to a statement released by the county.

“From a life of repeated felonies and failed attempts at drug or alcohol rehabilitation, Dallas County Courts’ S.T.A.C. Program seeks to transform lives and help defendants re-enter society as productive citizens, ultimately saving county taxpayers millions, and possibly saving their own lives,” the statement read in part.

The 12-to-18-month program was designed around accountability to transition post-treatment defendants back into community. To fulfill the conditions of S.T.A.C., graduates must continue to meet with probation officers and members of the court. They take outpatient treatment classes, attend Narcotics and/or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and they must maintain clean drug and alcohol tests. They have to keep a job, work community service hours and pay back any related court fines and fees.

The county also contends S.T.A.C. saves the taxpayers money since the graduates are not in jail, are paying restitution and child support, and fewer drug-addicted children needing specialized care are being born.

Retired judge John Creuzot was a founder of the Dallas Initiative for Expedited Recovery and Treatment Court, a S.T.A.C. precursor. He noted the population that experienced incarceration with limited substance abuse treatment had a high recidivism rate during that early program. In contrast, after he and others assisted in developing some new programs that stressed management by the court – like S.T.A.C. – things changed for offenders.

“And by that time we had developed the numbers that show that they had done very, very well when they were judicially supervised; probation officers and case workers, and a whole structure to help support them in their recovery,” he said.

According to statistics presented on The Creuzot Law Firm website, there was a 68 percent reduction in recidivism for those who went through revamped DIVERT Court, and for every $1 spent on a program participant, an estimated $9 was saved by avoiding criminal court costs.