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  • The San Juan Daily Star

Prosecutors sworn in to serve in revived drug courts

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia and Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández on Monday announced the recruitment of new special prosecutors to strengthen the Specialized Courtrooms for Controlled Substance Cases, known as drug courts.

“The results of these courtrooms are clear,” the governor said. “A large majority of the participants are successfully complying with the conditions imposed by the court and are taking advantage of the services and programs to which they are referred.”

More than 65 percent of participants have positive outcomes compared to those processed in the traditional system, Pierluisi said at a press conference.

“In particular, most drug court graduates remain non-recidivist for at least two years after leaving the program,” he said.

“In contrast, of those who are prosecuted in the traditional system and enter the probation program, nearly half reoffend,” the governor added. “And of those who are sentenced to prison, most are rearrested after leaving prison. These statistics are staggering.”

He said the drug courts program provides a health-oriented approach to those accused of committing non-violent crimes, specifically those motivated by drug and alcohol consumption disorders. It is based on the therapeutic justice system, which seeks true rehabilitation through effective tools and treatments that allow the person to reintegrate into society.

The 13 new prosecutors appointed to handle drug court cases throughout the island’s judicial districts were sworn in Monday thanks to an allocation of $2.4 million for the project, among other Justice Department initiatives.

Emanuelli Hernández emphasized that the designation arises from the commitment to implement approaches and strategies to combat drug trafficking and drug addiction by seeking real change.

“Humanizing the law and judicial processes, addressing the emotional and psychological aspect, provides us with more favorable results because not only the person is rehabilitated, but also his or her family environment, while reducing the incidence of crime and renewing society, as cycles of violence, abandonment and crime are stopped,” the Justice chief said. “In addition, it represents a savings to the Treasury and alleviates the justice system’s workload.”

The new prosecutors will receive training for three weeks focused on considering the law and judicial processes as a social force capable of producing therapeutic consequences that promote individuals’ physical and emotional well being, without subordinating other values of the justice system, Emanuelli Hernández noted.

The program was developed by the judicial branch and comprises various law enforcement agencies. The main purpose is to offer a “diversion” to the defendant to a program in which they are provided with the treatment and specialized help necessary to overcome their addiction to controlled substances. The defendant with an addictive condition thereby avoids being part of the prison population.

Defendants must meet several criteria to participate in the Drug Court Program. The crime for which they are being prosecuted must be causally related to their addictive condition, they cannot have a case involving the distribution of controlled substances, they cannot have convictions for violent crimes, and they must demonstrate interest in and commitment to participating in the treatment plan recommended by the Addiction and Mental Health Services Administration.

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