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90 officials from 7 states to study drug court here

More than 90 court officials from seven states will be in Buffalo this week to find out how the city's Drug Treatment Court works and how they can develop similar drug courts in their communities.

Henry Pirowski, who heads the local program, said officials from counties in New Mexico, Missouri, Maryland, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Alabama as well as other parts of New York, will attend sessions Monday through Wednesday.

The 9-year-old Buffalo initiative is recognized as a pioneer in the effort to deal with drug use by methods other than jailings. The Buffalo program, which is overseen by City Court Judge Robert T. Russell, has been a training site for the nationwide effort since its founding in 1996.

Backers say drug courts -- which provide substance-abuse treatment, job training, monitoring and other help as an alternative to jail -- have a 70 percent success rate in getting nonviolent drug users and alcoholics to change their behavior.

"It has become clear that the traditional process is not working for drug offenders because punishment unaccompanied by treatment and (court-imposed) accountability is an ineffective deterrent for drug offenders," Russell said.

The training program will be the 13th staged by Pirowski and his staff. He said more than 1,000 court officials from more than 150 jurisdictions have come to Buffalo for similar training.

There are now about 1,600 drug courts nationally, according to Pirowski. The drug court training programs are a joint federally funded venture of the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, a Washington, D.C.-based nongovernmental organization.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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