Convicted Drug Users Find Freedom Through Portland’s ‘Re-Entry’ Program

By Brent McCluskey 10/15/14

Under court supervision, inmates are reintegrated into society through a rigorous program—if they can stick with it.

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While habitual drug offenders typically find themselves in and out of jail cells, Portland’s “re-entry court” program provides a path to sobriety and freedom to those inmates willing to work for it.

Through court supervision and support, Portland’s re-entry program helps convicted drug and alcohol abusers change their harmful behaviors and reintegrate into society. The program has found great success and nearly 105 participants have successfully graduated since its inception nine years ago.

The demands on the participants are rigorous. Those in the program are required to submit to drug tests whenever the court orders them and failing to comply results in an automatic positive. Participants must also attend sobriety meetings, find a job, and perform community service. But those willing to stick with it are rewarded with a one-year reduction of supervised release. 

Richard Pitts, 46, recently graduated from the program and walked out of court without a prison sentence for the first time in more than 30 years last Thursday. Pitts, who has been in and out of prison on drug-related charges since he was 14-years-old, says he now feels like he has a “fresh start.”

These programs have been largely successful and have spread not just across the country, but around the world. Shannon Carey, an expert in drug-court programs, says this feat is in large part due to extensive research. “They are popular because there has been an enormous amount of research and evaluation that shows that they work,” Carey said. “Drug courts have been successful at stopping that revolving door for the majority of offenders that enter these programs.”

Now a free man, Pitts appreciates the program and those who helped him. “If you don’t give up, they won’t give up,” Pitts said. “I can be successful in life.”

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Brent McCluskey is a Social Media Editor at International Business Times as well as a Jedi with Sith tendencies.  He is also a reader of books, slayer of dragons, and level 80 mage.

“Yeah, I have a broad skill set. If I had to pick between being a Divergent or a wizard, I'd pick a wizard.”  His wizardness can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.