Efforts underway to reform Oklahoma Co. (OK) drug court
Stoner hopes recent reforms will be part of changing those perceptions.
He attributes the decrease in jail days to three key adjustments: Increasing incentives for individuals who follow program guidelines, creating new sanctions outside of jail stays and a partnership with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department to hire two peer educators.
Incentives can be small, like the hundreds of certificates passed out to those who complete phases of the program or reach a number of sober days. Stoner will give out Payday candy bars to people who get a job.
Sometimes incentives are larger, like getting a gift card to Starbucks or the gas station. Clay Bennett, chairman of the OKC Thunder ownership group, recently donated tickets.
“The science says that incentives are powerful in changing behavior, as much as or more than a sanction,” Stoner said. “We hadn’t done a good job of having an adequate number of incentives, so we are trying to think of everything we could work in to reward someone for good behavior.”
With sanctions, many levels now stand between a missed therapy session and a jail stay.
These include writing papers, heightened supervision, a curfew, multiple weekends working with a jail-labor program or sitting through an entire day of drug court just to watch.
Stoner said the shortest jail sanction used to be two days. Now, he may have someone go to jail at 10 a.m. and leave at 4 p.m.
“For every step that you can put in before jail, the better,” Stoner said. “Jail stays are supposed to be the heavy sanction. There are things you go to jail for—and we still do have people stay at the jail—but there, you end up spending time with antisocial people, out of your job and not in treatment. And it’s pretty traumatic.”