Ohio's attorney general says arresting drug addicts is not going to solve the heroin epidemic in his state. Attorney General Mike DeWine is hoping the use of drug courts can help reduce the drug addiction that's taking the lives of 23 Ohioans each week. DeWine speaks to Bill Whitaker for a story about how his state is addressing opioid addiction to be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, April 24 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Whitaker reports one in five Ohioans knows a person who uses heroin, according to a new study. One sheriff says up to 80 percent of his prisoners have drugs in their systems, mostly heroin. The death toll from opioid addiction has risen steadily in Ohio over the past decade. One rehab facility shows Whitaker a memorial wall that staffers say in 2010 contained about 50 names of people who died from drug abuse. The wall now has over 3,000 names, largely of people who died from a heroin overdose.
"The attorney general's not going to solve the problem-- your local sheriff, your local prosecutor is not going to," says DeWine. "I've been involved in law enforcement for four decades. And I've learned over those years-- that we're not going to arrest our way out of this problem."
60 Minutes cameras visit a drug court, where defendants can have their charges erased from their records if they stay clean and abide by the court's orders for rehabilitation. There are 91 of these courts in Ohio, but their judges are sometimes criticized for doing what some see as social work. Whitaker also interviews an Ohio prosecutor who takes a harder line. Hardin County Prosecutor Bradford Bailey believes some of the heroin addicts he prosecutes are not candidates for drug court. "They don't have the ability to stop using, some of them. They don't," he tells Whitaker.
Bailey prosecuted a young woman in 2011 for heroin possession after she had a near-fatal overdose. Five years later she is jail on a drug charges and has accumulated multiple felonies. Asked if the woman should have been treated a different way because she is an addict, Bailey replies, "Everything she's done she's chose to do. We didn't tell her to do these things. She chose to do felony crimes, not the state. We're not giving her a free pass."
Whitaker also speaks to two addicts who have been clean for some time and appear to be getting on with their lives. They both went to drug court. "Drug courts work," says DeWine. "Some people look at them and say... it's the judge becoming a social worker. It's not true at all."