MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Starting today, the 2016 campaign for W.Va. Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin will feature recovering drug addicts.
“It’s not a your typical red-white-and-blue campaign spot,” Darrell Shull, Benjamin’s political consultant, said. “We’re trying to focus on the good that the drug court program, that Justice Benjamin helped launch in this state, does for people in this state.”
Despite the adult drug court still being rolled out statewide, Benjamin said about one in 781 West Virginia residents has already participated in the program. Benjamin said when he introduced the drug court program back in 2005, it was a bit of a tough sell.
“We really had to sell this, so we got a little seed money and we were able to get this started,” he said. “Counties started seeing results, not just in saving people’s lives, but reducing costs as well. It’s now seen as a good investment with support from almost every facet of society.”
The reoffending rate for drug court defendants is about 9.4 percent, compared to 80 percent reuse rates amongst incarcerated defendants, according to Benjamin. He said one of the primary reasons is the tough program drug court defendants must go through.
“It might be 10 p.m. on the Fourth of July and you’ll get a knock on the door from a probation officer,” he said. “It’s definitely a lot more intensive than typical probation.”
As Benjamin gears up for the election, he said he hopes he will be able to continue working towards expanding the drug court to juveniles.
“With all the budgetary issues at the state level, we’re going to have to look for some grants in order to do this,” he said. “But the benefits of it are tremendous; seeing these children get on the right path and become drug-free adults is a win-win for society.”
Staff writer Henry Culvyhouse can be contacted at 304-263-8931, ext. 215. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/HCulvyhouseJN.