‘Court of Hope’ succeeds in cutting crime in Calgary communities

CALGARY- A unique justice initiative now has real numbers to prove it prevents millions of dollars in drug crimes plaguing Calgary neighbourhoods.

Drug Treatment Court rehabilitates non-violent, longtime drug users who are committing crimes daily to fund their habits. The court uses treatment, strict conditions and support.

Researchers with the University of Alberta tracked 22 recent graduates, and found 68 per cent had no new convictions or charges, two years after graduation.

Calgary police said they can see the crime reduction impact in their districts.

“We can, and throughout the city it’s significant” said Inspector Monty Sparrow, who sits on the board for the court, and has worked as an undercover officer.

Statistics show criminal convictions for the program’s graduates dropped from 794 before Drug Treatment Court , to 48 after.

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But proponents of the initiative say it does face challenges. Only 45 per cent of the program’s participants graduate.

“I’d like us to have 100 per cent graduates but we don’t. Another frustration…is stability,” said Judge Jim Ogle.

Ogle helped found the court in 2007 with a shoestring budget and just a handful of addicts.

While increased provincial grants have allowed the program to expand and accept 33 participants, there is still a funding struggle every year.

And a critical shortage of treatment beds means some applicants run out of jail time and slip away before they can start Drug Treatment Court.

Once accepted to the program, participants make weekly or biweekly court appearances, and face one of three judges, including Ogle.

He encourages participants in their journey through rehab, addiction courses and ultimately, finding jobs and housing.

“With five children, I’ve had a lot of issues with my kids like we all do. I talk to (Drug Treatment Court participants) sometimes like I talk to my kids,” Ogle said.

When participants enter the program, they plead guilty to their charges and their sentences are adjourned during their eight to 18 month rehabilitation program.

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They have to stay sober, accountable and honest with the court if they make mistakes.

They are sanctioned for non-compliant days, and can be sent back to jail for any breaches of their lengthy bail conditions, including two to three random drug tests per week.

Kerry Gladue, 44, was a crystal meth addict, master identity thief and counterfeiter before getting accepted to Calgary Drug Treatment Court.

Before his arrest, he would easily defraud retail stores across Alberta out of $7,000 a day to support his drug addiction.

Gladue was estranged from his nine children and many grandchildren, dropping into their lives only briefly to offer cash, and then leaving.

Police arrested him in a traffic stop in front of Calgary’s City Hall. He was in a vehicle full of counterfeiting equipment, fake identification and bills.

Gladue says he knew he was going away for a long time so he quickly swallowed a near-lethal dose of meth he wrestled out of his pocket.

Then the officers mistakenly let him go, not realizing what was hidden inside the vehicle. He woke up on his brother’s floor in Edmonton, shaking with convulsions from the meth he had ingested.

He surrendered to police shortly thereafter, and applied to Calgary Drug Treatment Court from behind bars in the Calgary Remand Centre.

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The court helped Gladue get off meth and address sexual abuse he experienced as a child. Today, he is living proof of the economic savings the court offers to society.

He is three and a half years sober, working at Simon House, his recovery centre during Drug Treatment Court.

“He’s on the dayshift doing counseling. Doing the same job I’m doing, basically,” said Peter Sheridan, his former case manager. “It’s awesome, he’s a miracle.”

Gladue is also proof the court reunites families, an invaluable outcome that is more difficult to measure.

He is now rebuilding relationships with several of his children.

“He’s getting to know all of us again. I like that. It’s cool,” said Kelcy Moses, 27, who has moved to Calgary to live with his father during his days off work at an oilsands camp.“He’s not throwing money at me, he’s saying ‘come down, come live with me, come stay with me’.”

“He invites me to his work functions, wants to be part of my schooling, tries to help me with my homework but doesn’t really understand anything,” joked Nathaniel Gladue, Kerry’s 16-year-old son. “I am definitely proud of him.”

Calgary’s Drug Treatment Court is one of several across the country, but isn’t federally funded like others.

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The courts first began appearing in Canada after proving to be successful in the United States.