Nonprofit aims to help New Hampshire’s drug courts with rewards program

Last modified: 11/10/2015 12:40:35 AM
An organization that provides financial support to the Grafton County drug court in North Haverhill will soon be extending the same help to all seven of the state’s drug courts.

The Friends of the Grafton County Drug Court is expanding into a statewide nonprofit called The Friends of the New Hampshire Drug Courts whose mission will be to continue to provide additional, privately raised funds to provide incentives, education and additional training for drug court participants.

The money raised by the group goes toward these ancillary services, such as gym memberships or gift cards that reward a person’s compliance in the program, said the The Friends of New Hampshire’s Drug Courts President Edward Rajsteter.

In the past, the group has also footed the bill for drug court graduations and other types of services that government funds cannot provide, he added.

“It’s the carrot and the stick,” Rajsteter said. “The program is based on that philosophy.”

Drug courts are alternative sentencing programs designed to keep nonviolent drug offenders out of jail and get them into treatment.

There are currently six drug courts in New Hampshire, based in Belknap, Cheshire, Grafton, Hillsborough, Rockingham and Strafford counties. Merrimack Country has not yet established a drug court but officials are exploring the option.

The Friends of the Grafton County Drug Court was formed in 2009, the first of its kind in New England. In the time it’s been operating, it has raised more than $50,000 to help supplement taxpayer funding of drug courts.

As the Friends program expands, those who wish to donate may either do so to the statewide program or can designate a particular drug court they want their money to go to, Rajsteter said.

“Expanding drug courts is a critical part of a comprehensive approach to combat this crisis, and I applaud the Friends of New Hampshire Drug Courts and their commitment to partnering with state and local governments to support drug courts,” Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a written statement. Hassan added the program’s expansion represents “the best of the Granite State’s collaborative spirit.”

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, or on Twitter @ella_nilsen)

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