The Finger Lakes Misdemeanor Drug Court (FLDC) is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month, a milestone that was earlier recognized by the state Assembly, which took time from its legislative session to celebrate this achievement. I believe it’s also important that we, as a community, recognize and appreciate the hard work performed by this special court.
The FLDC, which accepted its first participants in July 2000, is designed to protect the community and reduce the county’s costs of jailing drug offenders by curtailing the crimes associated with substance abuse and rehabilitating offenders rather than sentencing them to prison, which costs taxpayers more money.
The program requires offenders to volunteer to participate in the drug court, then take personal responsibility and action for their crimes. Court punishments consist of working, under close community supervision, to become more productive community members. Participation is limited to offenders charged with misdemeanors and probation and parole violators of alcohol- or drug-related crimes.
FLDC receives continuous support from the community, local law enforcement agencies, the Ontario County Alternatives to Incarceration Advisory Board and the state Unified Court System.
To graduate, participants must achieve a stable living environment, complete a substance abuse treatment program, and stay clean and sober for six straight months. They also must write an essay formally requesting permission to graduate that includes the reasons they believe qualifies them for that next step. A drug court team reviews each participant’s program achievements and records, then makes recommendations to the FLDC judge. The judge makes the final decisions about which offenders are eligible to graduate.
This program has truly made a remarkable difference in the lives of many residents of the Finger Lakes region. In fact, a young man recently stopped me at a local store and reminded me of speaking to his Finger Lakes Drug Court graduating class. It was through the efforts of the FLDC that his life has been completely changed from one of drug and physical abuse to a productive member of society.
Stephen D. Aronson, FLDC’s primary judge, is the program’s biggest advocate and a major force in the court’s tremendous success. I commend and congratulate Judge Aronson and everyone involved with FLDC on performing such a great service for our community and for making this program so successful.