With the rise in drug-related offenses across the greater Philadelphia area, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office and Lower Providence Police Department announced the launch of a new drug education program for young drug offenders.
The Drug Education and Abuse Prevention program (D.E.A.P.) is a voluntary pilot program for 18 to 26 year olds arrested for minor drug offenses. We aren’t sure why the age limitation was imposed as this seems like a great program that could help people of all ages. Non-violent offenders can enter the program that will educate and warn them of the dangers associated with abusing illicit drugs. Eligible offenders are those who have been arrested for possession of a small amount of drugs and who have not been previously arrested, or have only been arrested for underage drinking, minor drug offenses or minor thefts.
The program is developed around a carrot and stick, reward and scare, strategy. The program is a four step program in which the defendant must complete all four elements. First, there is an introductory meeting with a police representative, a prosecutor and Magisterial District Judge Cathleen Rebar. After the introductory meeting, the offender will attend a drug and alcohol assessment. This includes a presentation about drug use and addiction from professionals as well as former addicts. The third element is a presentation on the medical consequences of drug use by the Montgomery County Coroner. Lastly, the offender must participate in several hours of observation at the Montgomery County Drug Court.
Offenders must remain drug-free and arrest-free for six months following the completion of all the elements of the program. In order to ensure compliance, offenders will be subject to random drug testing. While the Section 17 and ARD programs remain available in Montgomery County, the main focus of D.E.A.P. is to limit and address the amount of repeat drug offenders and to protect against the progression from low-level drug abuse to heroin use and potential overdoses down the road. Arresting offenders and sentencing them to a term of probation has not been working to break this cycle.
While a person is participating in the program, the criminal case will be suspended. This means that participants will not be arrested so they do not have a criminal record if they successfully complete the program. If a participant drops or fails out of the program, he or she will be arrested and prosecuted for the original charges. If the pilot program proves to be successful in Lower Providence, the District Attorney’s Office plans to expand the program into other Montgomery County communities.