Vt. fights drug crimes with treatment, not jail

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont prosecutors and health care providers say they've been fighting back against a statewide heroin epidemic with court diversion programs that require drug treatment.

The programs report at least 80 percent of participants are conviction-free after a year.

Chittenden County state's attorney T.J. Donovan helped start one of the programs, called Rapid Intervention Community Court. Donovan says it works because it integrates public health and public safety.

Gov. Peter Shumlin is supporting legislation that would standardize the practice throughout the state. He says treatment costs about a tenth of the cost of incarceration, a huge savings for the state.

The measure passed the senate on Thursday and it is expected to pass in the House. Experts say it would be one of the nation's most comprehensive diversion laws.

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