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Grads of Mahoning drug court affirm its 15 years of success

Published: Thu, December 12, 2013 @ 12:07 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken



For Jason Stefaniak, completing the requirements of drug court was a life-changing experience.

“I was a heroin addict, and this program helped me get clean and get my life back on track,” said Stefaniak, who is now a horse-trailer salesman.

Stefaniak, 34, of Warren, was one of six people who graduated from Judge John M. Durkin’s drug court Wednesday.

Stefaniak’s graduation coincided with a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the drug court operated by the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge, for whom the courthouse rotunda celebration was a surprise.

In drug court, nonviolent offenders charged with drug-addiction-related crimes plead guilty as charged and have their charges dismissed once they complete the one-to-two-year court program.

The program requires participants to obtain a high-school diploma or GED certificate, get a job and a driver’s license if they don’t have one, attend a treatment program, submit to random drug testing and pay any restitution they owe to victims of their crimes.

“It’s a wonderful program. It gives us accountability. It makes us be responsible for our own decisions. It helps us see a better way of life,” Stefaniak said.

When he entered drug court, Stefaniak pleaded guilty before Judge Durkin to breaking and entering and possessing criminal tools in July 2012.

“I didn’t talk to my family, and I was going to lose my house,” Stefaniak said of his life before drug court. “This program helped me be accountable and made sure that I got back on my feet.”

Judge Durkin said he’s proud of drug court because of its ability to give “these people, who otherwise wouldn’t commit a crime, that do it only because of an addiction, the opportunity for a second chance.”

“To see some of our graduates come back with five, 10 or 15 years clean is why I do what I do” in presiding over drug court, the judge said.

“Drug courts work. ... We reduce recidivism [repeat criminal behavior]. We get these people to be tax-paying members of our society. They’re getting their families back,” Judge Durkin said.

Amy Klumpp, drug-court coordinator for the county’s Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board, said more than 1,300 people have entered Judge Durkin’s drug court over the 15 years, with about 52 percent of them successfully completing it.

Only 9 percent of those who have completed it have been convicted of new felonies, she said.

Even among participants who don’t successfully complete that court’s program, only 21 percent get convicted of new felonies because the court has given them the recovery strategies they can use, even if they relapse into drug abuse, Klumpp said.


1stateline(69 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

I can't agree with this program. Its basically a get out of jail free card for drug addicts. I know people who have commited horrible crimes and have affected peoples lives forever, and they get their slate wiped clean like it never happened. I understand the idea behind this program but simply enough. If you ever get in trouble just say "i do drugs" and you can get out with a slap on the wrist. If anything drug related crimes should be more severly punished.

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2dd933(223 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

This program is a great success and leave it to the Vindy.com commenters to come up with a gripe. Most of us have been affected in negative ways by drug addicts or alcoholics. The people in the Drug Court Program suffer from a mental, physical, and most of all spiritual disease (accepted by the AMA as a disease since the 1950s). Believe me, they didn't just make up an addiction to get out of jail time. Do you really think the police and the courts don't already know who is a drug addict? Almost half of them don't graduate and serve out their time. "Only 9 percent of those who have completed it have been convicted of new felonies." Compare that to non drug court numbers and the repeat offender figures will skyrocket. Drug Court is a great improvement to the justice system of Mahoning County and Judge Durkin and his staff deserve all the credit due.

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3stateline(69 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Yeah disease... its a disease. its more like a bad choice. The disease defense is just a cop out. And the cure for drug addiction is to give them legal Heroin paid for by the tax payers (suboxon). Yeah sure Crime will go down just give all the drug addicts more drugs and they won't steal anymore. i really don't see the point in being leinient on drug addicts and being harsh on people that aren't drug addicts.

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4TERRAPINST(301 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Stateline: You obviously have little to no idea what you are talking about in the first matter. All scientific research supports the fact that addiction is the product of brain structure and chemical abnormalities, that absolutely degrades an individual's ability to resist the use of drugs and alcohol. However-totally agree that the use of methadone and suboxone are anything more than drug replacement therapies. You put a barrier between those people receiving methadone and that methadone and the EXACT same behavior will occur. It is merely legal continued dependence and there is some damage control but research shows that just how much is questionable. The weaning off rates are extremely poor. Further it is big business, you see that new wing at Meridian Community Care, bought and paid for by distributing legalized opiates. The problem is based on the fact that our system has decided to criminalize a health issue. If you found a good crack cocaine replacement and made it legal, you would see far bigger wings being added to treatment centers. The system needs to dramatically decriminalize drug issues. It would save resource, lighten the criminal justice loads and provide more opportunity for proven recovery methods. Methadone, like Bon Jovi said, is BAD MEDICINE, and hugely profitable-which decreases the incentive for treatment centers to create therapies that address dependence. Why would the director of any agency where resources are slim, want to decrease his main money stream? He wouldn't and they don't.

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5L0L(640 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

I see statline's point. These people chose to use teh drugs in the first place so "I did it because im on drugs" is not a good reason. They CHOSE to do the drugs in the first place. They would not have became addicted if they wouldn't of made that choice.

If a drunk driver kills your family in a car accident and then says "it wasn't my fault I was drunk" is that going to fly? He CHOSE to drink then CHOSE to drive.

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6stateline(69 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

THERAPIST- They brought this disease on themselves. They weren't born with it (minus the whole crack baby thing). I know many drug addicts, sadly most were childhood friends. when they receive legal drugs they simply sell them to buy illegal drugs. And LOL is corect. If i were to get a bunch of DUI's should they all be thrown out just because i say "oh i'm an alcoholic" and as for status of disease. i heard a quote once, "If i could have any disease it would be alcoholism and drug addiction, what other disease is enjoyable makes you feel good and ends up getting you laid" Pedophiles have "mental and spiritual diseases" mabey we should give them a free pass too.

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7bumslife(28 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Stateline et al, denial isn't just a river. Quit living it and admit you are either an addict, alcoholic, or someone in your immediate family is. The WOD is a massive failure. Drug use/abuse is a medical and social issue, our govt makes it a criminal one. EVERY single problem tied to drug use is caused by our govt's draconian drug laws. Pull your head out, do some real research and find out what addiction is about. It is treatable and cureable. The solution is overhauling the laws, but there is WAY too much profit in the warehousing of human beings, the treatment industry that sprung up overnite, the corruption in the legal system for a meaningful change to occur. How much of the illegal drug market do you think is fueled and supplied by our cops, just as one example? You sound very naïve about things you try to sound informed about. Look at your own glass house.

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8TERRAPINST(301 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Staeline: You do not choose diabetes. However excessive ingestion of sweets leads to horrible consequence. Medically and physiologically you are just no accurate. And yes you ARE born with it gene mapping and twin comparison tests have proven this. Absolutely a genetic issue. I am not suggesting that your quotes have any, any medical basis and indeed are absurd, however you are arguing against science with your OPINION. There are plenty of people who have experimented with alcohol and drugs who did not become addicted however those with a GENETIC predisposition for addiction lack the ability to respond normally. You obviously have absolutely no background or knowledge in this area and while you have every right to assert your opinion, you sound quite ignorant to those of us who are educated in the matter. Further your ignorance labels and stigmatizes the issue and prevents proper response to what is truly a health issue. If you like I can provide you with 10, 20 , 50 scholarly articles that prove you are wrong. However, I am sure you would never take the time to read them because you just might recognize your own ignorance. Further, no one has suggested a free pass, however all the war on drugs has done has wasted resource, prolonged hardship-not only for addicts but the community and again prevented science based approaches to therapies. If a diabetic is aware of their illness, eats too much chocolate or fails to follow insulin protocols which have been provided, passes out and crashes into a school bus should they be charged? Is it their FAULT or a symptom of illness. Same deal. I agree its not a spiritual disease, no way to prove that-it is a biological disease and that has been proven-whether or not you agree that the world is round has very little to do with the fact that it is.

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9hunky(38 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Frankly, if you ignore the hateful people, your comments are true, this program is a success, and Judge Durkin should be commended. Other cities should be made aware of his tactics.

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10L0L(640 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

@bumslife. If drug abuse would stay a social issue tehn our gov. would have no need to get involved but drug abuse leads to criminal activity so yes it is regulated. Just like you have to be 21 to drink. Should there be no drinking age and 8th graders can go get bombed after school?

@Terrapnist. How are you educated in the matter? Because you read articles? I'm not trying to be rude but I have to disagree. Yes I understand and agree that addiction is closely related to ones biological disposition but these people have chosen to go down that path in the first place. I know if I start gambling I won't stop, its happened before, so guess what? I dont do it. Its about self control. Its about choices that were made. What stateline is trying to say, in my opinion, is that he does not agree with just wiping the records clean after completing the program. Sure, give them the help, the program, the structure, the skills but why do they get their record clean and get to start over when maybe the victim of their crime doesn't get that chance? Dont jump to conclusions and assume he/she is uneducated, because I can assure you I am not, and make the assumption that they're against people getting help or second chances. I believe they're against giving free passes for what they have done. I didnt make those mistakes or CHOOSE to go down that road because I know I have an addictive personality so where's my prize?

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11stateline(69 comments)posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Bumslife- Hah, nope i'm a great upstanding tax paying citizen. with no problems in my family. And unlike you i don't live a bums life. go back to shooting your smack.

I think you are looking at the wrong side of the equation. If an addict, wants to go shoot up and kill himself, then he can go for it they know the conseqences, and its their decision. I'm not really concered with addicts because of the drugs they do. I'm more concerned with the Crime that results from drug use. Mainly Theft, burglary, fraud and sometimes murder.

And basically anyone can say that they are an addict. I'm sure they don't do all those neural receptor tests on people to proove they are addicted. they just have a couple half assed pyschologist that just got off their mommy's tit, ask them a standard list of questions.

If someone is caught shooting up in their bathroom, no they shouldn't just be hauled off to jail.

If someone is shooting up in their bathroom then goes and Robs their neighbor. They should be Treated "equally". Meaning Jail time.

If someone was stealingto feed their family, they couldn't go to drug court and have their record cleared.

But if someone was stealing to purchase heroin, they have pity for them and give them a slap on the wrist.

Doesn't seem to boil down to equality in the eyes of the law.

And as for a Cure, there is no cure. Are you gonna go change they're genetic mapping in their head? The only cure is death and the only other options are incarceration, or more drugs. Even if you aren't using you are still an addict. Keep counting days Gentlemen.

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12bumslife(28 comments)posted 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Stateline: Statistics prove that EVERY extended family unit in America has a drug abuse problem, whether thru prescription abuse or illicit drugs. That;s kinda a fact, With your sense of self-righteous logic (I keep forgetting you are holier than us)I would NEVER expect you to believe that, but it is in plain black and white in many issues of JAMA, but oh, that's just propaganda. Keep on living in your fools paradise and keep on ponying up them them dollars to warehouse your friends and neighbors (and relatives)...

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