January 31, 2018

Bronx drug court gives defendants a second chance

Fox 5 NY -An innovative new program in the Bronx is giving drug addicts who have committed low-level, nonviolent crimes a chance at a new life before it is too late.

The words of Bronx County Criminal Court Supervising Judge George Grasso—"We will in this proceeding bend over backwards to work with you"—were not what you'd expect from the bench in criminal court. But this was in a courtroom for OAR—Overdose Avoidance and Recovery—where those arrested can get clean with treatment and have a clean record instead of a drug habit and a criminal charge.

With the Bronx ground zero for the city's opioid epidemic and the overdose death toll in the borough rivaling the murder rate for the entire city, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark felt an urgent need for solutions. She said she believes the program that she initiated will help save lives. photo

"It's a disaster, it's an absolute catastrophe that hundreds of people are dying of overdoses from opioids, whether it's from heroin, prescription pills, or from fentanyl," Clark said.

Clark said that people arrested for nonviolent minor offenses like shoplifting and who are proven to have a drug addiction can qualify. Out of an initial 250 cases screened in December, 52 defendants proved to be eligible.

"It's not being soft on crime—it's being smart on crime because these people will continue to go through the system because of their problem," Clark told reporters. "If you don't address the problem, you're going to continue to have the crime. If we address the problem, I believe we will reduce the crime."

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