By Mark Powell
A Last Chance for Hope
“Tell me More.”
Those words led to a change in the way people who use drugs are treated in court in one West Virginia jurisdiction.
More than a decade ago, Circuit Judge William Thompson was frustrated. He sought election to the bench because he wanted to help people. As West Virginia’s addiction crisis worsened, he watched while more and more people in his hometown of Madison (“Gateway to the Coalfields”) and Boone County were sent to jail. These were his neighbors, people he had grown up with, and sometimes even friends. Incarceration wasn’t giving them the help they needed, the help he wanted to provide. “What we were doing then wasn’t working,” he remembers. So, he began looking for alternatives.
Eventually, he learned about a special drug court in Reno, Nevada that was producing results. “Well, tell me more about it,” he said. Judge Thompson liked what he heard and volunteered to get the ball rolling.