Drug court trou­ble

Tulsa panel needs to get a han­dle on ques­tions about the CAAIR fa­cil­ity

Tulsa World - - Opinion -

Re­cent news re­ports about a Delaware Coun­ty­based non­profit that ac­cepts Tulsa County drug court clients are dis­turb­ing and bear closer scru­tiny.

Re­veal, a project of the non­profit Cen­ter for In­ves­tiga­tive Re­port­ing, re­ports that most clients at CAAIR — Chris­tian Al­co­holics and Ad­dicts in Re­cov­ery — are re­quired to work at chicken pro­cess­ing plants with­out pay, ex­cept for room and board.

Re­veal also re­ported that clients weren't of­fered sub­stance abuse treat­ment beyond 12-step pro­grams and Bi­ble study; and, if hurt on the job, they were de­nied ad­e­quate med­i­cal care but CAAIR kept their work­ers com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments.

One res­i­dent of the area told the Tulsa World the CAAIR fa­cil­ity is re­ferred to lo­cally as the “slave farm,” which is a harsh term, but one that should get the at­ten­tion of lo­cal drug court of­fi­cials.

A spokes­woman for the Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Coun­cil of Tulsa, which ad­min­is­ters the county's drug court pro­gram, said Tulsa County has had “very pos­i­tive re­sults” with CAAIR and hadn't re­ceived the sorts of com­plaints de­tailed in the Re­veal re­port, but that it will re­con­sider its use of the fa­cil­ity go­ing for­ward.

We sup­port drug courts be­cause they make sense. Peo­ple whose crim­i­nal acts are driven by addictions don't need in­car­cer­a­tion. They need help break­ing their addictions, and they need to be put back into the work­ing world. Thus, in­stead of be­ing tax con­sumers who fill state and pri­vate pris­ons, they be­come self-re­liant work­ing tax­pay­ers.

But that good prin­ci­ple does not cover work­ing peo­ple with­out wages or work­ers com­pen­sa­tion pro­tec­tions.

The Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Coun­cil of Tulsa needs to get this right be­fore it dam­ages a valu­able pro­gram that should be a bright spot in Ok­la­homa's cor­rec­tions mess, not an em­bar­rass­ment.

SHANE BEVEL/for Re­veal

CAAIR has a sprawl­ing, grassy com­pound near Jay in north­east­ern Ok­la­homa. The one-year diver­sion pro­gram mainly re­lies on faith and work to treat ad­dic­tion.

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