Kendall County is slated to start hearing its first drug court cases this month.
Judge John McAdams said he will see his first cases come before the county's drug court this month, after the Illinois Supreme Court certified the program.
The Illinois Supreme Court certified the Kendall County Drug Court, along with some other Illinois "problem-solving courts" at the end of November.
The Administrative Office of Illinois Courts adopted certain standards for "problem-solving courts," which include drug court, mental health court and other related programs, at the beginning of 2016, McAdams said.
"We just followed the standards set by the Illinois Supreme Court, which were really copied off of the best practices standards from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals," he said. "Illinois just adopted the national standard, and Illinois wants everybody doing it the right way."
The process to begin the drug court program started in November of 2013, when a group of judges met with representatives from the State's Attorney's Office, the public defender, probation department, sheriff's office, and the county health department to discuss and plan the program.
Judge Tim McCann, who is part of the original drug court planning group, said the group started a year ago "grouping people we thought would likely be candidates for drug court."
McCann said until the program was certified by the Supreme Court, they couldn't use the term "drug court."
"We were not able to conduct ourselves as a drug court until we got this certification," he said. "We were not allowed to use the term 'drug court'; it was simply another felony call."
McAdams said a court call in drug court will be different than a typical drug arrest court hearing.
"In a normal court when the defendant is in front of judge, it's two minutes if it's a status date," he said. "In drug court, they say the longer you spend with them, the better off your results are. So... it's very, very different from regular court."
McCann said the state's goal is to reduce the prison population by using drug courts as alternative sentencing.
"The overall goal is to reduce the prison population," he said. "That's why the state of Illinois is choosing to participating in funding this. The state's position is, by entering into drug court, Kendall County is committing that we're going to attempt to reduce the number of people that go to prison. In its most basic terms, drug court is an alternative to facing a likely prison sentence."
McCann said those who participate in drug court will be watched closely.
"There will be very close monitoring," he said. "Somebody on a typical felony caseload that gets put on probation won't see me for a year or maybe longer if they don't violate their probation. With drug court, they're going to be back very frequently, oftentimes weekly; that's part of the program and that gets reduced over time. They're going to get very frequent drug testing and checks of employment and housing status and those types of things."