One problem that judges and prosecutors often face is a decision about whether to put a repeat drug offender behind bars, according to Sorsaia. And it's not a matter of whether they're a non-violent offender anymore.
"They're killing themselves," he said. "I've had parents tell me, 'I would rather visit my child in prison than visit them in the cemetery,'" Sorsaia said. "I've had parents call and ask me, 'Will you please lock my child up because I'm afraid they're killing themselves.' We do it all the time."
The adult drug court might especially help younger adults who have a chance to get their lives back on track, according to Sorsaia.
"The people I worry about are those between 18 and 30 that are struggling with addiction while just starting their lives out," he said. "If they can beat the addiction they can potentially have a future."
Drug courts act as a diversionary program for people who are addicted to drugs and have been charged with relatively minor crimes. In Kanawha County, which established its drug court in 2009, participants can take an extensive testing, counseling and community-service program run by the court system to help them control their substance-abuse problems in lieu of jail time. If they complete the program, prosecutors agree to dismiss their criminal charges.
Kanawha's program has graduated 38 participants. Only 13.8 percent of those were arrested again after completing the program. In all, Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey has told the Gazette that the county has saved $2.36 million on its regional jail bill because of the program.
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.