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Tues 2/22 DA Harris Wants All Drug Dealers to Get Jail not Drug Court-Debate w Adachi
by Drug Court for "personal use" deale
Monday Feb 21st, 2005 1:16 PM
Drug dealers and potentially violent criminals are avoiding jail by taking advantage of loopholes in a city program that diverts drug addicts out of prison and into rehabilitation, according to the District Attorney's Office.
The 10-year-old Drug Court funnels about 200 people a year facing criminal prosecution for drug possession, drug sales of up to 2 grams and non-violent felonies into six-month drug rehabilitation and jobs programs.
DA Harris Wants All Drug Dealers to Get Jail not Drug Court-Debate w Adachi
2/22/2005 7:00 PM
1 Hours
Women's Building, 3543 18th St. @ Valencia

MAKING PROGRESS ON DRUG CRIMES
District Attorney Kamala Harris and Public Defender Jeff Adachi discuss "Progressive Solutions to Drug Crimes in San Francisco," focusing on effective and compassionate alternatives to prosecution and jail. Presented by the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Democratic Club and moderated by club president Greg Shaw. Women's Building, 3543 18th St., San Francisco. For information visit http://www.milkclub.org/index.html.

http://www.sfexaminer.com/articles/2005/01/04/news/20050104_ne03_drugcourt.txt
Drug Court a 'haven for dope dealers'
By Alison Soltau
Staff Writer
Drug dealers and potentially violent criminals are avoiding jail by taking advantage of loopholes in a city program that diverts drug addicts out of prison and into rehabilitation, according to the District Attorney's Office.
The 10-year-old Drug Court funnels about 200 people a year facing criminal prosecution for drug possession, drug sales of up to 2 grams and non-violent felonies into six-month drug rehabilitation and jobs programs.
Drug Court needs urgent reform because its current rules encourage savvy dealers to commute to San Francisco from around the Bay Area and is allowing hardened, violent criminals to avert jailtime, said Assistant District Attorney and veteran drug prosecutor Russ Giuntini.
Unlike in other Bay Area counties, San Francisco's Drug Court admits people with drug dealing convictions more than eight years old and people currently facing multiple drug charges to enter the program, Giuntini said.
"What it has done is created kind of a haven for dope dealers," Giuntini said. "A large percentage of these people are sellers. Essentially they get a pass for a very serious offense."
In one serious case, a hardened felon with a murder conviction as a juvenile on his rapsheet arrested by police in April for two cases of drug dealing in the crime-plagued Bayview was sent to Drug Court.
District Attorney Kamala Harris said she wanted to exclude anyone with a history of drug dealing from Drug Court.
"There is a direct connection between drug sales and violent crime. If we do not require severe consequences for people committing more serious crimes it's likely they will reoffend. They need to be treated differently from someone who is a genuine addict."
Harris noted that first-time dealers between the ages of 18 and 30 are already given a chance at rehabilitation by participating in another city program called Streets to Work.
Proponents of Drug Court say the dealers are exactly the type of people The City must help in order to stop the cycle of crime on the streets.
"They'll go back to this revolving door, get arrested, spend time in jail, get out and can't work because of the conviction and go back to selling drugs," Public Defender Jeff Adachi said. He added that he has seen no evidence of people abusing the program.
Drug Court coordinator Anne Marie Engels said of the graduates since 2000, 15 percent were re-arrested after the first year, compared to 51 percent of defendants prosecuted in the criminal justice system. Ninety-three percent of graduates have stable income and housing, she said.
Police Capt. Tim Hettrich of the narcotics detail said police consistently rearrested the same drug dealers who persisted in "terrorizing" neighborhoods, sometimes with violent crime.
"Reforms to Drug Court could really change the streets of San Francisco and make them safer from dealers," Hettrich said.
Giuntini said criminals with non-violent felony charges such as auto theft charges, were also entering the program by claiming they had a drug addiction, but many "faked the addiction" in talks with social workers, he said.
"This is an issue of public safety, when you've got neighborhoods where people are afraid to go out their front door ... and bullets are going to be zipping around in a turf war over dope," he said.

HOW DRUG COURT WORKS

According to Drug Court coordinator Anne Marie Engels, addiction is measured on a scale from 1 to 9. Since the program began 10 years ago, Drug Court has reduced the minimum level of addiction permitted from Level 5 to Level 3. A 3 means someone is a regular marijuana smoker and casual Ecstasy user, Engels said.
Drug Court participants are funneled into three "tracks." In the first two, addicted people receive residential drug treatment. But Track III, which currently has 30 people, is where many criminals with an addiction level of 3 are avoiding jail and enjoying jobs programs, according the District Attorney's Office.
But Engels said people with a Level 3 addiction receive important group counseling and would "slip through the cracks," returning to the criminal life otherwise.

CASE STUDY

The District Attorney's Office says that while Drug Court has many success stories, many candidates are repeat offenders abusing the system. One example is a 40-year-old man who has a juvenile conviction for second-degree murder; misdemeanor battery, vandalism and domestic violence charges from the early 1990s; and felony cocaine sales charges from 1998.
Here is his Drug Court history:

* The admitee was indicted by a grand jury for dealing cocaine to undercover police officers in the Bayview in May and June of 2003.
* Claiming addiction, he was admitted to the program in August.
* He failed to appear in Drug Court on Dec. 28 and a bench warrant was issued.
* He is currently missing, but eligible to be re-admitted to Drug Court.

Email: asoltau [at] examiner.com