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Sun Gazette: Arlington’s top prosecutor still bullish on drug-court effort Print


Created:  Wednesday, October 7, 2015 12:00PM


Ask Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos to list the achievements of her first term of office, and the discussion eventually – usually quickly – comes to the establishment of a "drug court."

"Everyone here would be heartened to see the way it works," Stamos said during an Oct. 6 presentation to the Arlington County Civic Federation.

The effort, in its third year, is run out of the Circuit Court and involves rehabilitative efforts for those convicted of drug infractions. The program has been "a resounding success, a vehicle for helping drug-addicted offenders get back on track," the commonwealth's attorney said.

Stamos, who green-lighted the project after winning office, credited a collaborative effort between the court system, police department and her own office. She praised Circuit Court Judge Louise DiMatteo, who took on duties in the drug court shortly after being elected to office by the General Assembly, as "fantastic" in working with offenders.

Arlington was not a pioneer in the drug-court effort: Nearly 30 courts – for adults, juveniles and families – had been established across the state between 1995 and the time Arlington's debuted. Stamos' predecessor, Commonwealth's Attorney Richard Trodden, had concerns about the concept, as (at first) did Stamos.

"We slowly came around to accept it as a wonderful and powerful tool," Stamos said at a graduation ceremony for participants in the program held earlier this year.

One of those who graduated that day, 63-year-old Michael Mullins, had spent 494 days journeying through the four-step process leading to completion. During that period, he was drug-screened about 150 times, made 30-odd court appearances, attended outpatient support groups, maintained his employment, came up with the funds to pay restitution and engaged in moral-recognition therapy.

Supporters say the combination of punishment and treatment in a drug court helps to reduce the percentage of those who make return trips through the criminal-justice system.

Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), who supports the concept, agreed with Stamos that it is bearing fruit.

"I'm very pleased at the progress Arlington's drug court is making, consistent with my long-held belief that substance-abuse treatment works," he said. "This is a good example of how the judicial system and law enforcement can use treatment as a means to keep our communities safe."

Stamos was Trodden's chief deputy when she ran to succeed him in 2011. After winning the Democratic primary that year, she was unopposed in the general election.

This year, she had no opposition in the primary despite receiving blowback from the county's Democratic leadership for her support of independent County Board candidate John Vihstadt in 2014. A potential challenger in the general election narrowly missed qualifying when he did not submit enough petition signatures to make the ballot.

The jurisdiction of the office of commonwealth's attorney also extends to the city of Falls Church.