Alexandria to offer ‘mercy’ for criminals with drug addictions

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Alexandria just got approved to offer a special “drug treatment court” within the city’s criminal justice system.

“I’m very pleased to be able to announce that, and I look forward to providing more details in the near future,” Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter said Thursday.

Here’s how it typically works — offenders plead guilty, stay out of jail, get help with their addiction and check in regularly with their judge, probation officer and counselors.

“By having a personalized approach and having a lot of oversight and regular appearances in front of the court that kind of positive and — maybe occasionally, on minor occasions — negative feedback might help people address the addiction that’s so hard to overcome,” Porter said.

Participation is not mandatory and has to be chosen by someone who agrees to follow program rules.

“They have to want to address their addiction,” Porter said.

Right now, the goal is to get the new docket up and running by 2019, but it’s only just been approved and timelines may be subject to change.

“Unfortunately, as of yet, we have not secured additional funding. And the result of that means I’ll probably have to somewhat limit the program at least in its first year, ” Porter said.

Porter announced state approval of drug treatment court at the end of a news conference about the dismantling of an interstate, million-dollar heroin and fentanyl drug trafficking ring in Northern Virginia.

At that news conference both Porter and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring talked about needing a dual strategy to fight addiction.

“We zealously investigate and go after people who are tracking in large amounts of this poison on our streets,” Porter said. “But, we also have some mercy and some understanding of people who are struggling with addiction.”

A similar program to help people with mental health issues was launched by Loudoun County, Virginia back in July.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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