Catherine Sumpter has finally overcome her addiction to meth. For years, she raised her three children and held jobs to provide for them as a functional addict. "I worked and maintained a household but still used," Sumpter said.
Eventually, she said, "I had to move out of Tulsa basically to quit...My kids luckily are doing fine." But, Sumpter admitted, "I feel I made their childhood harder than it had to be."
She was able to overcome her drug addiction without going through jail time or rehab, but has worried about her husband's similar struggles.
Right now, Clay Sumpter is in Oklahoma City Community Correctional Center, serving for nonviolent offenses. This center is a little different than typical jail. The OCCC opened in October 1970 to offer offenders an opportunity to achieve a successful "re-entry" into the world. The center offers supervision as offenders take on treatment and employment through public works program and work-release job opportunities.
Sumpter is glad to see her husband get help. "The reality is he's a drug addict and treatment for that is what's really needed," she said.
Sumpter watched helplessly as her husband endured the struggles of jail -- the weight loss, alleged blackmail -- only to come home and battle the same substance abuse demons year after year. She's glad the cycle may finally end. "I believe any program, 12-step or anything, will work if you want sobriety," she said. But the first step in making Oklahoma's Drug Courts system work is the desire to change. And eventually, she said, "the clarity comes from just being off of [drugs]."
Of the inmates in DOC custody, 33 percent were imprisoned for drug and alcohol offenses, and at least half were incarcerated for a crime related to substance abuse. The majority of Oklahoma's incarcerated are serving time for nonviolent crimes.
About 46 percent of people who are on probation have committed alcohol -- or drug -- related offenses, according to the State of Corrections in Oklahoma report for 2010.
Now In Session
The Tulsa County Drug Court has operated since May 1996 and was expanded to include DUI Court in 2002. Similar to Sumpter's experience at OKCCC, Tulsa's drug court officers supervise offenders through office and home visits, while offenders also give urine samples, go through drug treatment and donate time to community service. When participants do well, they're given incentives like candy bars, curfew extensions and gift cards. And when they graduate, their cases may be dismissed, reduced or withdrawn by the district attorney's office.
The cost of drug treatment is much lower than the price tag for a stay in DOC custody. The annual cost of housing and caring for one inmate is $19,000. But that cost drops to only $5,000 a year for drug court, $4,800 for an inpatient substance abuse program. The number drops to only $1,342 for outpatient substance abuse treatment. There are cheaper, better ways to protect the public and rehabilitate offenders than sending them off to jail.
In Tulsa, Family & Children's Services Community Outreach Psychiatric Emergency Service teams (COPES) has worked with law enforcement in a pre-booking jail diversion program. Between 2004 and 2006, the COPES team diverted 97 percent of nonviolent criminal potential offenders from being imprisoned. Out of 4,751 cases, 4,623 of them were diverted into other programs.
After four years, the re-arrest rates for drug court graduates are less than half that of released inmates. Of drug court grads, 23.5 percent were re-arrested after four years, while more than half (54.3 percent) of traditional inmates went back to jail.
Drug court programs also help solve unemployment problems for participants. Upon entry into the program, 31 percent of participants were unemployed. By the time they graduated, only 4 percent were still looking for work.
Another big success for Oklahoma's drug court is the increase in children living with their parents. Many offenders have children who suffer the loss of their family unit when a parent is imprisoned.
Drug court programs can help put families back together. Upon entry into the program, 40 percent of children of drug court participants lived with their parents. By the time their parents graduate, 61 percent of these affected children were living in a home with their parents.
Meanwhile, Sumpter is praying and hoping her husband comes home for good this time.
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