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Hauge says no to drug sentencing alternative

Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge has disclosed that his office will no longer recommend or support certain alternative drug penalties until the system is fixed.

“People get cut loose on the day of sentencing, with the promise they will seek treatment,” Hauge said. “But there are no local treatment facilities that provide what they need.”

Hauge released a detailed, six-page memorandum this week stating his office will no longer recommend the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA) as part of any felony disposition.

DOSA, which cuts the sentence in half if the inmate agrees to treatment while incarcerated, is often combined with another program to reduce a two-year sentence to six months.

In these cases, the inmates aren’t in jail long enough to receive the rehabilitative treatment that qualified them for the sentence reduction in the first place.

Hauge’s memo was distributed to judges, the Kitsap County Bar Association and the public. At press time he was not sure whether it would post on the county Web site.

Defense attorneys are free to request Drug Abstinence Orders (DAOs) as punishment, and judges may still impose them as punishment. However, the Prosecuting Attorney will neither propose nor support such action.

Hauge claims DAOs are most likely to re-offend by committing more property and drug crimes, and they are usually placed low on the list of supervision priorities.

“It’s a budget decision they’ve had to make,” Hauge said in the memo. “Our Community Corrections Officers do an outstanding job and are devoted to community safety. But their work rules continue to evolve to restrict what they can do with DAOs in the community. Their hands are being tied tighter all the time.”

Hauge said his action would not affect the disposition of drug court offenders, a program he feels still works very well. Still, many offenders who would normally receive DAOs are being sent to Drug Court.

“There are people that should be in the DAO program that are in Drug Court,” he said. “So we are taking a chance here.”

Hauge said he does not have a “horror story” about any local DAOs that were set free without proper rehabilitation to commit a crime. But he called the DAO system a “sham” and said it undercuts the concept of the punishment fitting the crime.

In any case, he feels that most drug offenders need treatment in addition to incarceration.

“The purpose is always to keep people from re-offending,” Hauge said. “That is why treatment is so useful.”

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