Drug court a growing option in St. Johns County

By: Kevin Clark , Action News Jax

Updated:

More drug offenders in St. Johns County are now choosing treatment over jail.

Judge Alexander Christine presides over the county’s drug court, and says the program continues to grow in its 15th year.

He tells Action News Jax there were 42 participants in this recent cycle. Four years ago, he says there were only 20.

“These aren’t weekend pot smokers,” said Christine. “These are seriously addicted felony offenders who have multiple, multiple relapses and convictions.”

He added that many of the participants—roughly half—become addicted through the abuse of prescription drugs.

They then turn to harder street drugs before being arrested.

Eligible offenders usually have the option: jail time or drug court.

“If they’re educated about it, they’ll take the harder route and do drug court,” said Christine.

That’s what Danielle Beane decided to do. In 2015, she was arrested for possession of heroin.

Now, she’s one of St. Johns County’s most recent drug court graduates.

“I think if I was sent to prison or sent to jail or just sent to rehab, I would have gone out and used again.” said Beane.

Drug Court advocates feel the program, rather than incarceration, is an effective way to keep people from re-offending.

“When they get through our drug court program, the recidivism rate is about 17 percent,” Christine told Action News Jax. “And we do that for about half the cost.”

He added that the program is rigorous, despite a reputation of not being tough enough.

Drug Court participants must wake up every morning and be prepared to take a drug test.

They’re expected to attend court each week, self-help sessions, and participate in community service.

Beane graduated in one year, and said all the hard work was worth it. She’s due to give birth to a baby girl in the spring.

“This is just a chance that my daughter doesn’t have to live the way that I grew up or live the way my son grew up,” she said.   

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