- Associated Press - Saturday, February 27, 2016

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - Rather than sending drug abusers to jail, Raleigh County has launched a new drug court in order to help addicts turn their lives around.

Officials on Friday held an opening ceremony for the Raleigh County Adult Drug Court, multiple media outlets report.

Judge Robert A. Burnside said an increase in both violent and nonviolent crimes in the Beckley area can be traced back to drug addiction.

Drug abuse has become a scourge that cannot be ignored said Michael B. Lacy, the director of the West Virginia Division of Probation Services.

“Drug abuse and addiction is in our homes,” Lacy said. “It’s among our friends, those who sit beside us at church, those who teach our kids at school, those who sit in the cubicles beside us. Drug addiction is all around us.”

Drug courts strive to reduce substance abuse and improve rehabilitation through treatment, periodic drug testing and community supervision. Those who successfully navigate the program can have felonies cleared from their record.

The program is hard work and isn’t for everyone, including violent criminals and repeat offenders, said Kristen Keller, Raleigh County’s prosecuting attorney.

Drug courts have been introduced in 44 counties in West Virginia. Burnside said recidivism rates for incarcerated drug offending individuals is 80 percent. For drug court graduates in the past two years, the recidivism rate is less than 10 percent.

“We are restoring lives, restoring families, restoring communities,” Burnside said.

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