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Minnesota Legislature

Juvenile drug court funding

Published (3/6/2009)
By Mike Cook
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Money paid by drug offenders could better help youth stay away from illegal substances.

Current law requires that a person convicted of a controlled substance crime must be fined at least 30 percent of the maximum fine authorized. Seventy percent of the penalty is forwarded to drug abuse prevention programs, such as DARE, in the county where the crime was committed and 30 percent goes to the state’s General Fund.

Rep. Jeremy Kalin (DFL-North Branch) would like to see juvenile drug court programs be eligible to receive part of the 70 percent. A bill he sponsors, HF600, was held over March 3 by the House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

Kalin said there are four juvenile drug courts in the state, including one in Chisago County.

“It’s essentially a diversion program from juvenile detention, and, I think, ultimately to jail or (Department of Corrections) facilities,” he said. “The impact on not only the youth, but the families, is really constructive. It’s not one-size-fits-all, but I’ve seen it work very effectively to stop problems, especially drug-related, that can turn into much more serious crimes.”

Offenders work toward sobriety and recovery with a team that can include prosecutors, judges, law enforcement and mental health professionals. This can be done through ongoing treatment, frequent drug testing, mandatory court appearances and other incentives to encourage change.

“We feel that expansion of the funding options is in keeping with the original intent of the DARE statute by focusing on juvenile drug abuse issues in the local community,” said Steve Paquay, Chisago County probation director. “We hope the passage will result in a new stable funding stream for these programs.”

A companion, SF321, sponsored by Sen. Rick Olseen (DFL-Harris), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Budget Division.

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