Hard Time or Drug Treatment — the ‘DOSA’ Question During the Financial Crisis

Despite their constraints under Washington’s sentencing guidelines, our eight Kitsap County superior court judges have a lot to ponder when it comes to granting a Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative.

“DOSA” sentences effectively cut prison time in half for a felony offender in need of drug treatment (and if you haven’t noticed, an insane portion of felony defendants have drug or alcohol problems). In lieu of that prison time, an offender is released to be supervised by the Department of Corrections and, under court order, must undergo drug treatment.

In theory, this idea pleased the state legislature to first pass legislation for the DOSA in 1995: punish said offender for the victims and the community, but also help break the addiction and end such a person’s merry-go-round and costly indefinte journey through our justice system.

But DOSA fell flat on its face in many ways.

A 2005 report by the Washington State Institue for Public Policy announced flatly, “Based on conversations with practitioners, it appears that beginning in 2001 some judges and prosecutors became concerned that
DOSA sentences were not holding offenders sufficiently accountable. Some people noted that the
Department of Corrections (DOC) did not consistently revoke an offender’s DOSA sentence when the
offender failed to comply with sentence conditions.”

That was certainly Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge’s problem with DOSA:

“A DOSA sentence will most likely result in an untreated, unsupervised
offender, convicted of a serious crime, back on the streets of our community almost
certain to commit more crime.  This does neither the offender nor those of us who
live here any good at all.  We consider the program broken, and will not participate in
it until it is fixed.”

The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office hasn’t recommended it since.

That doesn’t mean judges can’t impose the sentence over the prosecutor’s objections. They have. But it has substantially weakened the DOSA program.

Still, the institute of public policy said in 2005 the DOSA program still cut felony recitivism down from 29 to 20 percent. So it has made a mark.

It is hard to ignore the stark realities of the current economic downturn. It seems that at the moment, the Department of Corrections is making cuts and Kitsap may lose its drug treatment center. So rather than have hard time or drug treatment, we are being left with neither option.

Here’s the interesting part: DOSA ends this year under the statute. So what will they replace it with?

8 thoughts on “Hard Time or Drug Treatment — the ‘DOSA’ Question During the Financial Crisis

  1. The State isn’t going to fix an addict or alcoholic with treatment or jail. Give the meth head some speed, the pot smoker his smoke legally or something comparable like herion addicts have methadone. Clean their drugs up, get rid of the atmosphere that breeds and feeds on their dis-ease, street corner dealers, boosting, prostitution, B&E will all but disappear with acceptance. These people aren’t the real criminals here.
    Indians have been given all the firewater they have wanted with the blessing of our government. Throw in a few Missionary blankets and you got a disappearing act.
    I know from decades of abuses in all areas especially alcohol and cigarettes and the things I would do to get my needs met. Thank God for blackouts to hide the hideous insanity I put me thru. Each time I would wake up to another day of mind bobbing, looking for keys and answers. Who, what, where? Has my money been stolen? My car? Only on alcohol can I become that careless with my life, not to mention that of others. No other drug lets out the demons, murders our children, destroys marriages, has no regard for anything as alcohol. Effective and easy way to control, as was done with the Indians.

  2. This article does not tell the whole story. Besides the prison time that a DOSA sentence provides for, the inmate can also get additional time off for good behavior. Even a minimum 18 month sentence for a first time meth dealer is reduced to 3 to 6 months. Because the inmate gets even more time off for credit for the time spent in the county jail prior to conviction and sentencing. And there is nothing done to treat drug problems in county jail. So, there is very little time actually available to make meaningful progress for drug rehabilitation in prison under the DOSA plan. If the inmates were serving longer sentences where they actually had time to travel down the road to rehabilitation, some may succeed in a treatment program.

    Instead of the promise of 1/2 the confinement time, the state could give them a break on their fines at sentencing instead. Or, consider the time spent in county jail as part of their 1/2 off in DOSA. The way it is now, I see the DOSA program as simply a faster cycle to get the under-treated drug offender back out to reoffend. I think the county drug court is a much more successful model and I hope that program is continued to be funded and used. The current DOSA model does nothing more than save the state & county money. It does nothing to actually help the majority sentenced under it’s current provisions.

  3. HST — very good point. The “good time” under DOC supervision often takes a sentence down to the point very little prison time is left — often 50 percent — hence why the state’s prosecutors object now to DOSA.

    Some “crimes against persons,” including residential burglary, give defendants a third time off for good behavior. And violent offenses are eligible for 10 percent off. But such offenders aren’t allowed in a DOSA program anyway.

  4. And then there is SB 5288 which has passed the Senate and will more than likely pass the House. It will stop supervision of low and moderate risk to re-offend felons after 6 months instead of years in many cases, including offenders of violent crimes, DV, and felony DUI crimes. No one will be supervising to make sure they complete treatment anyway (if this passess). It’s all about the money.

  5. Makes sense! Let’s do away with DOSA and start passing out the SOSA. Sex Offenders can’t change. Drug Offendors can change if family, neighbors and DEPT of Corrections stand behind the addict, NOT AGAINST THEM!

  6. Every dark night is followed by a bright sunny day. So, patience and
    attention is required and things will be fruitful in near future.
    There is nothing called a free lunch is this world. If anything
    needed to be resolved then initiated need a support to be sorted out.
    Karen Walter

    Drug Treatment Centers

  7. This a joke,drug users know the system and get away with the crimes they do,laughing at the courts on thier way out of the court rooms.

  8. In Pierce County Courts I had a attorney who was not skilled in criminal law and he said he was. There were 2 criminal cases. One case with one judge was 126-months with DOSA and the 2nd case with a different judge was 138-months with NO DOSA and 9 to 12-months community supervision. The 2nd judge had the say so if he was going to run them concurrent or consecutive. He ran them both concurrent. I got out of prison after doing 138-months thinking I would do at the max. 12-months community supervision. DOC said I had to do the other half of the DOSA sentence outside prison of 63-months under community confinement. DOC is saying the time stopped at 63-months on the first case. The judge’s gave me the most time they could give, the high end of the sentencing grid for each offense. So I thought…. Until DOC added on the 63 more months because of their own rules from the second half of the DOSA sentence. That means I have a total of 201-months because the first attorney was not skilled in criminal law enough to know that he should have asked the courts if both of these cases be heard by the same judge. Then they would have to run concurrent, by one judge doing both cases on the same days. Every criminal law attorney knows this. Or also he could have taken the 1st J&S back to court within the first year time line after to have the DOSA be taken off. It’s all in the wording that DOC has in theirown rules. Their law needs to be changed in the US Supreme Courts? Right?

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