On Wednesday, Northumberland County honored four people who have completed an intensive 18-month treatment program designed to help them quit using drugs and committing the petty crimes that helped them pay for those drugs.

The "drug court" program is commendable and neighboring counties are rightly considering adding similar programs to their justice systems.

We wish the graduates of the program all the best as they move on with their lives -- clean, sober and on the right side of the law.

Four people graduated this week and they join 18 others from Northumberland County's program this year. That's 22 people the county didn't have to house in the Northumberland County Prison.

The numbers are relatively low because the program is rigorous. Program administrators report that only two drug court participants have been arrested on new charges.

Drug courts are a good idea because they are effective at helping people abandon a drug-fueled life of crime. While effective drug courts are not the silver bullet that will solve the broader problem of jail overcrowding being experienced by every county in the region.

Members of the Northumberland County Prison board were pleased recently to note that the combination of three treatment courts -- the drug court, a DUI court and a mental health court -- had increased the number of people on house arrest by about 30 people.

Thirty people receiving a more effective alternative to incarceration is a wonderful thing. But taking 30 people out of the population of 180 inmates at the Northumberland County Prison translates into a drop of about 16 percent. That's nothing to sneeze at but in neighboring counties dealing with serious overcrowding issues it is difficult to imagine that a 16 percent cut in population will be sufficient.

Union County officials said last week that the population of county inmates had hit 75 -- more than double the county jail's capacity. And that is not the only problem. County Sheriff John Schrawder has parked a couple of his county-owned cars because he says they desperately need repairs. They've logged thousands of miles of use moving prisoners around.

A 16 percent cut in the jail population won't solve the county's problems.

Drug courts are a part of the solution but more is needed.

In Northumberland County with the drop in population due to the implementation of treatment courts, a century old jail is still in use.

The commissioners in neighboring counties -- particularly Snyder and Union counties -- have had on-again off-again discussions over the years about building a regional jail. Those conversations should be renewed.

Each county is facing similar problems. The best solution is to pool resources.

As Northumberland County's experience with treatment courts shows, what works in one county should work in the neighboring counties. So why not work together?

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