SECOND CHANCE COURT
A Court of Common Pleas initiative established in 2017 under the direction of the Honorable John P. Capuzzi, Sr.in conjunction with the Office of the District Attorney and Delaware County Council in direct response to the opioid crisis which plagues our county and Pennsylvania as a whole.
This is a voluntary pre-trial bail program. It is not a trial disposition.
Identify those persons who are suffering from opioid addiction at the time of their arrest and provide an immediate opportunity for their voluntary entry into a treatment program as a condition of bail.
In speaking with recovering addicts and the treatment providers, all emphasize that intervention at the earliest possible time offers the greatest pathway for successful recovery.
From the time of the arrest or a summons being issued until the time the offender first appears before a judge in the Court of Common Pleas is typically four to six months. During this time, the Court is without power to offer meaningful treatment options to the opioid abuser. By entering the Second Chance Court Program in close proximity to the arrest, the offender agrees to allow the Court of Common Pleas to address the bail issue so that rehabilitation modalities may be put in place. The offender does not give up his or her trial rights, nor are they precluded from filing any appropriate legal motions. The ultimate disposition of the matter follows the normal case management track, while appropriate offenders are then identified and offered expedited drug treatment court placement, if they so choose.
The program is funded, in major part, by a grant to the Delaware County Criminal Justice Advisory Board from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. This funding has allowed the court to employ a pre-trial bail coordinator, Stephanie Price, who oversees and administers the program, as well as regularly communicates with the participants to ensure compliance with the treatment recommendations and follow up care.
Following the arrest, there are several methods employed to seek out those having an opioid addiction and who may benefit from the program. Law enforcement or the bail interviewer may alert the Magisterial District Judge. At the preliminary arraignment (this is where the defendant is informed of the charges and bail is set),the Magisterial District Judge in evaluating the case and reviewing the information provided may determine the person needs to be assessed. The referral is immediately sent to the coordinator. Additionally, our coordinator reviews the intake list from George W. Hill Correctional Facility on a daily basis looking for possible candidates and GWHCF staff can also flag persons to be assessed. Finally, the defendant’s attorney may also propose his/her client for the program.
Once a person is identified as a possible candidate, the coordinator will advise the Office of the District Attorney and the Office of the Public Defender, or private counsel, if known, as no one is admitted to the program without the agreement of both the DA and defense counsel. It is extremely important that the offender fully understand his or her rights and recognize that this is a voluntary program.
The candidate must be:
Following the preliminary arraignment and after the MDJ sets bail, if the offender is incarcerated at GWHCF and has been identified as a possible candidate for the program, the coordinator or GWHCF staff will arrange a substance abuse evaluation. A certified substance abuse evaluator will review all relevant information and meet with the offender to assess the level of treatment, if any, deemed appropriate under the national and state guidelines.
If the offender voluntarily opts to enter the program, the District Attorney and the offender’s attorney will sign the agreement and forward it to Judge John Capuzzi. Judge Capuzzi will issue an Order placing the offender in the program. Judge Capuzzi, in conjunction with the coordinator, monitors the offender’s progress and addresses any deviations from the treatment regimen.
If the assessment recommends in-patient rehabilitation treatment, the offender will be transferred directly from GWHCF to the approved rehabilitation facility.
If the assessment recommends intensive outpatient treatment, a hearing will be held to modify the bail, where appropriate, to allow the release with specific conditions including the treatment component.
At the preliminary arraignment, if the offender is not incarcerated, but is determined to be a candidate for the program, the offender is directed to report to the Access Center at Crozer Community Hospital by 6:45 a.m. the next business day for an assessment. Both Crozer and the coordinator are immediately notified by the MDJ staff of the referral.
Those persons who are receiving intensive outpatient treatment are required to report to the coordinator, Stephanie Price, on a weekly basis to review their progress.
If an offender fails to follow the treatment program or fails to meet with the coordinator, a bench warrant is issued and a hearing is held within 72 hours after a defendant’s apprehension or surrender before Judge Capuzzi to determine how best to get the offender back on track. Rehabilitation is the goal of the Second Chance Court Program and the focus of the violation hearing.
The program has had more than moderate success. We have been able to get many of the participants into long-term treatment. Of course success depends on the individual being committed to the program and equally invested in treatment and sobriety.
Currently, two of our participants are now becoming certified recovery specialists helping others.
The fact that an offender participated in the program does not alter the final disposition of the case. The offender has several options, as follows:
The goal should always be for the offender’s attorney to do what is in the best interest for the long-term recovery of the addict.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why is the program only open to Delaware County Residents?
Unfortunately, both the grant and the Medicaid system in Pennsylvania do not allow out-of- county residents to receive funding for the treatment. There is no mechanism for Delaware County to be reimbursed for non-resident treatment.
Am I guaranteed entry into the drug treatment court?
The simple answer is no. Each individual must submit an application which is then reviewed by the drug treatment court team. There are many advantages to entering the drug treatment court. For more information go to the District Attorney’s web site.
What advantage does an individual get for entering the program?
First and foremost is treatment and rehabilitation. Second, for those who are successful in the short-term treatment program and continue onto intensive outpatient treatment, the final case dispositions take this into consideration.
Why must an offender be assessed at Crozer?
Crozer-Chester Medical Center has been designated as a Center of Excellence in treating addiction by the Commonwealth. There are dedicated facilities and well-trained staff at Crozer whose sole goal is treatment and rehabilitation. The partnership between Crozer and the County of Delaware has enabled offenders to get expedited assessments and treatment, which is in the best interest of the addict, whom all in the program seek to help.