State's new 'Break the Cycle' drug effort starts in Howard Felons on probation, parole must submit to periodic testing

July 02, 1998|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

Maryland's new "Break the Cycle" drug program, which requires felons on probation and parole to submit to drug tests as often as twice a week, was officially initiated yesterday in Howard County.

Under the initiative, drug addicts on probation and parole who don't test clean for drugs or who miss treatment appointments will be quickly punished with brief jail terms or will be forced to perform community service.

The "Break the Cycle" program -- crafted by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend -- aims to decrease drug addiction and reduce "quality of life" crimes such as petty theft committed by addicts.

Addicts who can pass the drug tests stay in treatment and might be rewarded with reduced sentences. Those who fail will be punished immediately with temporary jail terms or forced to perform community service. Other failed drug tests will bring harsher penalties.

The program is aimed at about 15,000 people on probation and parole throughout Maryland.

Law enforcement officials believe 30 to 40 people in Howard will be in the program by the beginning of October.

"We don't expect to be inundated by people here, especially not right away," said Priscilla Griffith, field supervisor of Howard's Division of Parole and Probation. "But we do know that about 50 percent of those people who come before the court have some sort of substance abuse problem."

The state has allocated $2.9 million to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to carry out the "Break the Cycle" program in seven jurisdictions throughout Maryland. The others are Baltimore City and Baltimore, Prince George's, Montgomery, Washington and Charles counties.

Griffith said offenders will be referred to the program by the county's District Court.

A parole agent and probation officer will work with a Health Department treatment professional to tailor a plan to each parolee.

The average length of time each parolee is in the program is three years.

The Division of Parole and Probation will conduct the drug tests and see to it that graduated sanctions are applied to offenders who test positive or who fail to report to drug treatment.

Pub Date: 7/02/98

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