Tulsa County uses program to help drug addicts avoid prison, save taxpayers money

TULSA, Okla. — The vast majority of crimes in Tulsa are drug-related.

The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office continues to search for alternative solutions to the problem, rather than simply place criminals in prison. They have created a program called Drug Court, which is described as a more efficient way to fight crime.

When participants first begin the program, they must visit counselors once a week. They must also take random drug tests, get a job, and both attend treatment and support meetings. It takes about two years to complete the program.

Nick Shaffer was facing seven years in prison following a drug-related arrest in 2014. At the time, the Tulsa County prosecutor gave Shaffer the option of attending Drug Court instead of going to prison. When Shaffer entered the program, Drug Court had an 80 percent success rate. Despite this, Drug Court had a bad reputation to users on the streets.

“Everyone on the addiction side, they spread rumors that it’s an 80 percent chance of failure. Because they don’t want you to stop buying,” said Shaffer.

Shaffer said Drug Court was hard work, but eventually the judge complimented his progress. Shaffer said if it hadn’t had been for Drug Court, he would have ended up using drugs again.

In 2014, Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler told FOX23 that drugs are the cause for most crime. If you stop the addiction, you stop the crime. You also save taxpayers lots of money. In Oklahoma, taxpayers spend $21,000 to put one person in prison for one year. It costs $5,000 a year to place someone through Drug Court.

Shaffer graduated from Drug Court in 2015. As a result of completing the program, the felony drug charge did not go on his record. He got a job and is staying sober.

“I’m now a productive member of society, I’m a tax payer. If I’m incarcerated, I’m not providing anything to the community,” said Shaffer.

Funding for Drug Court comes through the mental health department. Participants must pay fees to take part in the program. It costs participants around $2,000 to complete the program.

RELATED>>>Oklahoma inmate convicted on non-violent charge now freed following new law, commutation