ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — In 2019, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office launched its City of Alexandria Treatment Court (ATC) as an alternative to prosecuting drug-related crimes and to reduce its recidivism rate. The program treats people with moderate to high levels of substance abuse disorders who faced jail time.
The ATC is celebrating its first graduate of the program and a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, which will enable the program to increase the number of participants it serves from five to 30 people. The ATC will also be able to hire a full-time senior therapist and a treatment court coordinator and implement drug testing.
The ATC requires participants to attend meetings and therapy sessions, appear in court once a week, and meet other benchmarks over the course of three years.
Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David Lord, the ATC coordinator, says the pandemic created tough challenges. ATC moved court and therapy sessions and support groups online. Some participants had to adapt to the technology, which helped them build new skills. Once restrictions started to lift, some participants (depending on their age and health) started attending therapy and support groups in person.
Lord says the ATC is making the court system fairer and the city safer. “All of our individuals have been through the court system over, and over, and over again,” he said. “We’re saving taxpayers money, we’re saving victims of future crimes who aren’t having crimes happen because those individuals are having their lives transformed, and at the same time we’re helping those individuals avoid conviction and incarceration.”