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Bethel Therapeutic Court

What is the Bethel Therapeutic Court?

The Bethel Therapeutic Court (BTC) was created by the Alaska State Legislature 64 SLA 01 to increase public safety by reducing repeat Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offenses. This therapeutic court is a post-adjudication plea or pre-sentence program designed to supervise defendants who are substance-abusing adults (over 18 years of age), and probationers and parolees placed in the program as a condition of probation or due to a violation of probation/parole. In this 18-month treatment program, defendants are helped to overcome their chemical addictions, become crime-free, and contribute to their families and community. Program components are: (1) a three-phase treatment program for substance abuse; (2) intensive supervision by a specially-assigned ASAP probation officer; (3) frequent appearances before a specially-assigned superior court judge; (4) regular attendance at 12-Step meetings and sobriety support groups; and (4) frequent, random alcohol and drug testing.

The BTC is a collaborative partnership between the Alaska Court System, the Department of Law, the Public Defender’s Agency, the Office of Public Advocacy, the Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP), the Department of Health and Social Services, and the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation Department of Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The BTC has a team composed of a superior court judge, a district attorney, a defense attorney, an ASAP probation officer, and a treatment provider who work collaboratively to fulfill the goals of the program. Defendants are currently represented by the Public Defender, the Office of Public Advocacy, and three private law firms in Bethel.

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Who is eligible?

An offender is eligible to participate in the BTC if he/she:

  • Is charged with a felony or misdemeanor crime which was directly related to the defendant’s substance abuse, or has violated probation due to substance abuse
  • Has an addiction to alcohol or drugs, as determined by an intake assessment
  • Does not have a mental condition or mental illness which is not treatable through the therapy offered by this program
  • Does not have an unclassified or Class A Felony as the incoming charge
  • Has never been convicted of a sexual offense under AS 11.410-470
  • Can provide their own living arrangements in Bethel
  • Does not have an outstanding felony warrant or detainer from another state

A defendant who has been charged with any violent crime will be closely screened for admission and considered on a case-by-case basis. The BTC provides treatment for substance abuse, and is not designed as a violent offenders’ program. However, defendants who have been charged with violent offenses while under the influence will not automatically be excluded from admission.

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What are the steps for getting in?

A defendant expresses interest in BTC and at least twice observes the Friday BTC court sessions. The defense attorney asks the district attorney to make a Rule 11 offer, and if the defendant accepts the offer, is scheduled for a drug/alcohol assessment at YKHC Behavioral Health, and a set of clinical evaluations by the treatment provider’s master’s level clinician. The defendant must be found to have a drug/alcohol addiction which can be treated in an intensive outpatient setting, and be free of mental health or violence issues which would preclude successful treatment. Once accepted by the treatment provider, the entire BTC team must unanimously agree on a defendant’s admission to the Therapeutic Court. Finally, the judge approves the Rule 11 agreement and the defendant enters into the legal agreement with the state. While the defendant is waiting to begin treatment, the defendant's release status and conditions are determined by the judge.

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Living Arrangements:

Participants find their own living arrangement in Bethel. The probation officer must approve the home as safe and sober.

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Other Requirements:

Participants must maintain employment or be enrolled in school while in BTC. In addition, defendants will have community work service requirements throughout the 18-month program.

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Cost:

Defendants pay $50 per month toward the cost of treatment.

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Contact Information:

Defendants should contact any private attorney or the Public Defender’s Agency in Bethel at 907 543-2488 to find out if their case qualifies for BTC.

BTC meets on Friday mornings in the Bethel Courthouse. For program information, contact the Project Coordinator at the Bethel Courthouse, Room 103, at 907 543-1121 or the Probation Officer at 907 543-1118 or by e-mail at lkassman@akcourts.us .

If you are interested in observing court, please call to confirm that court in being held on its regularly scheduled day. The numbers to call are 907 543-1121 or 907 543-1118.

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