Many state law enforcement and drug treatment organizations also oppose the measure.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Officials of the Trumbull County Community Corrections Planning Board are encouraging people to vote against a proposed constitutional amendment.
State Issue 1 on the November ballot would allow people charged with or convicted of illegal possession or use of a drug to choose treatment instead of incarceration.
It also would require the state to spend $247 million over seven years for drug treatment programs.
Judge Andrew Logan of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court said drug court programs in Ohio work well. He also is concerned about a constitutional amendment. If passed, the only way to change or modify it would be another constitutional amendment, said Judge Logan, who presides over the county's drug court.
He called it an end-run around changing law through the legislative process.
The amendment is opposed by many law enforcement, labor and drug treatment associations and organizations.
Judge Jack Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court said the amendment would remove many of the strides that have been made over several years through drug courts.
A drug court enables a nonviolent drug offender to go through treatment in lieu of conviction. Judge Durkin presides over the drug court in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
"If a person isn't following the rules, a judge can impose sanctions," Judge Durkin said.
A judge may order a drug court enrollee to spend a few days in jail if he or she doesn't follow the court's rules. Many drug court graduates have told the judge that a few days in jail provided the incentive they needed to see the program through, Judge Durkin said.
Under the proposed amendment, judges wouldn't have that discretion.
The amendment would limit the maximum sentence to 90 days incarceration for eligible first-time, second-time and some repeat offenders.
"A 90-day cap is a walk in the park for some of these people," Judge Durkin said.
With the drug court system, court and drug treatment officials can communicate about a client's progress. If the proposed amendment passes, they wouldn't, he said.
If a client tells a drug counselor he or she has found an effective way to beat a drug test, the counselor can't tell the judge. The person may continually test clean and show no other signs of breaking the program's rules.
"The counselor can't tell the court that the person is in full relapse," Judge Durkin said.
Ken Lloyd, president and CEO of Community Solutions, said the amendment sounds like a good idea when supporters tout it as treatment instead of jail, but there are loopholes.
Drug treatment programs like Trumbull Lifelines, of which Community Solutions is a contract agency, are experiencing cuts in state funding.
The money called for in the amendment would have to come from cuts from other areas or by passing a tax, Lloyd said.