In a ceremony marked by emotion and pride, Judge Aaron Koeppen and the entire treatment team celebrated the first participants to successfully complete all phases of the Camden County Treatment Court program.

In a ceremony marked by emotion and pride, Judge Aaron Koeppen and the entire treatment team celebrated the first participants to successfully complete all phases of the Camden County Treatment Court program. After remarks by Judge Koeppen noting the emotions he felt watching the struggle and development of those graduating, each team member rose to address the process and the journey just completed. Graduates were then each presented a plaque and a coin commemorating their journey and accomplishment. The room was filled with family and friends of the graduates as well as professionals met at various points on the path to recovery.

The Treatment Team consists of Judge Aaron Koeppen, Defense Counsel Fawzy Simon, Prosecuting Attorney (PA) Heather Miller as well as Assistant PA Caleb Cunningham and Doug Kinde, John Masterson of Compass Health, Jill Admire of CPS Testing, Tammy Reeves and Bryan Byler of Probation and Parole, Lt. Jim Elkin of Camden County Sheriff Tony Helm’s Office, and Danielle Malone, Treatment Court Coordinator.

Although specialty courts have been utilized as an alternative to incarceration for three decades, Camden Circuit Court implemented this one in December of 2017. The fiscal benefits to the state are a reduction in total dollars spent on each criminal defendant. Treatment and monitoring programs are less expensive than the daily cost of a jail cell.

Participants are selected to have their criminal cases adjudicated in these courts based on several criteria, beginning with the nature of the offense. These are substances abuse cases where the accused has a high potential for successful recovery. There can be absolutely no element of violence in the charges, and the court team must believe the defendant capable of benefitting more from the program than from possible incarceration if found guilty in regular court.

Treatment Court, also known as Drug Court or DUI Court, is based on accountability and recovery. During his remarks, Team Member John Masterson noted that “...80% of treatment is walking through the door.” Potential participants must be ready for and committed to voluntarily entering the alternative court. The defendant is offered an option of treatment for addictive and destructive behaviors, strict monitoring and testing, supportive counseling by professionals, regular case reviews by the treatment court, and guidance by a practicing defense attorney who is a permanent member of the team.

 The defendant can always opt for his or her own defense counsel, but the team attorney does not charge for their work. The prosecuting attorney’s office is also a member of the team and monitors the defendant’s progress and compliance with the requirements of the court.

A participant has 18 to 24 months in order to fulfill all the requirements of the court and graduate, at which point charges will be dismissed. Failure to comply with any of the required steps always poses a threat of jail time; thus, the participant becomes accountable for his or her own behaviors and choices, but with aid and support of the court team.

The U. S. system of jurisprudence is adversarial in nature. The power and resources of the state, through police agencies and prosecutor’s offices, are brought to bear upon a citizen charged with a crime. The accused and their defense attorney sit alone before the court awaiting a potential finding of guilt and sentencing so the punishment can begin. With Treatment Courts, the power and resources of the state are brought to bear on the accused’s addictive behaviors and thus become an ally and friend on the path to recovery.