Two Lancaster County courts designated as national mentor courts

Lancaster County Treatment Courts will be at the forefront of helping develop drug and veteran treatment programs across the country.
Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 5:47 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -Lancaster County Treatment Courts will be at the forefront of helping develop drug and veteran treatment programs across the country. On Tuesday, two of them received national recognition as mentor courts.

The mentor court distinction, given by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, is just that. The court can serve as mentors to other drug and treatment programs looking to expand or hone their services.

The two in Lancaster County were picked out of thousands to represent the best of the best. The Lancaster County Drug Court is one of 10 in the nation selected to be a mentor from 2022 to 2024.

“It’s going to be a little extra work, obviously, but it’s something we look forward to,” said Judge Andrew Jacobsen, District Court Judge. “We are always looking to improve our court and one of the ways to do that is to share the experiences, the successes, the failures, with other courts.”

That treatment court started in 2001. The people who are part of it said seeing the turnaround for the participants is the most rewarding part.

“It truly does affect so many people, not just the participants we work with,” said Landon Parks, Assistant Director for Community Corrections. “Their kids, their spouses, significant others, their friends, family, employers, the sponsors they deal with. There is an impact across the board.”

People charged with felonies can have a chance to take programming and receive help and guidance from sponsors in the community. The most rent data, taken from 2013 to 2018, shows the program’s impact of 203 people to go through drug court, nearly 90%, didn’t commit a new felony.

“Some people would say, ‘They did the crime, make them do the time.’ The reality is, these are people that come back to our community,” said Judge Robert Otte, District Court Judge. “They have families, they can be productive members of society. And when we give them that choice, it matters.”

The Lancaster County Veterans Treatment Court also received the national distinction. The court, which started in 2017, is one of five selected to be a mentor court as well. Eighteen people have graduated from veteran’s court, and only one has committed a new felony.

“To be at a status now after they themselves have done much training, much hard work on the front lines here in Lincoln, Nebraska,” said Dr. Marla Newby, Project Director, Justice For Vets Division, National Association of Drug Court Professionals. “To be selected says they have worked very hard to earn this recognition, and will be a tremendous help and a great example as they mentor other veterans treatment courts who will visit them in the next two years.”

Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon said it helps the people going through the treatment to see how many people are invested in their success, from the prosecutor to the judge to the treatment team. He said, hopefully, Lancaster County’s new DUI court will be on a national stage soon as well.

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