ESCANABA – The two candidates for Delta County District Judge differ on the possible benefits of a drug court.
John Economopoulos does not feel that a drug court in Delta County is the answer to the community’s drug problem.
“I think we’ve confused the issue in concluding that everyone who uses drugs is a drug addict. I respectfully disagree that proposition. I think there are people, many people who use drugs who are criminals and should be treated through the criminal justice system that way,” Economopoulos said. “Not everybody who uses drugs is an addict who needs to be saved.”
Economopoulos said there are community based programs to help people that are addicted to drugs and currently the Probate Court in Delta County handles cases where drugs are a problem.
“That’s where you will learn the most about the drug problem in Delta County. That’s where I have my experience. I’ve been to the homes of drug addicts of abusive and neglectful parents. I’ve been to those homes during review hearings. I’ve represented the children who have been victims of abuse and neglect of parents who have been addicted. I’ve represented parents who’ve been addicted and abused and neglected their children. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t,” Economopoulos said.
Steve Parks said drug courts in other counties have been successful and ultimately save communities and the state money.
“The cost of housing an inmate is $30,000 to $40,000 a year. So, people that are looking into the future in trying to access the cost of having somebody continuing their addiction and continuing in their crime related to the addiction can see that the numbers are staggering. This is a way to stop that in its tracks,” he said.
A person in a drug court has to abide by strict guidlelines. They are dealt with differently than other people who have committed crimes. Parks said it’s an opportunity to turn lives around.
“What I see as the prosecutor that the public doesn’t see is I see the police reports coming across my desk where an addict may have committed suicide or an addicted died of a drug overdose. Those my be worthy of a paragraph in the newspaper but people are dying and it’s not good. If there are ways to use the immense power of the court to try and change some lives and save some lives and save money in the process, why wouldn’t we want to do that?” Parks stated.
The election is Tuesday.