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Editorial: A drug rehab dropout should have been in jail

Early on the morning of March 6, a man in a ski mask entered a woman’s home on Conner Drive in Charleston. The masked man ordered her to perform sexual acts in front of her children. It was a gruesome ordeal that ended with him forcing her to withdraw money from an ATM.

He used her cell phone to call people, identifying himself as Mike. Kanawha County Sheriff’s deputies used that information to arrest Michael Salisbury, 29, of Charleston, one week later. They charged him with sexual assault and kidnapping.

Salisbury should have already been in jail serving his time for a conviction on a charge of fleeing while driving under the influence in 2011.

But under the state’s prison reform efforts, Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster suspended his sentence last May and sent Salisbury to a drug rehabilitation center in Pinehaven, Raleigh County.

Salisbury flunked. Officials kicked him out of the program after he tested positive for methamphetamine. Officials sent a letter to Judge Webster asking that she rescind the suspension and send him back to prison.

However, she never had him re-arrested. She contends that there was a miscommunication. Either she never got the letter or overlooked it.

That’s no excuse for rehab officials who never should have released him. When the test results came back positive, shouldn’t they have called the sheriff’s department and had him sent to the nearest regional jail?

Officials could handle the legal paperwork later. Getting Salisbury off the streets was of utmost importance.

Also, the rehab officials never contacted the Kanawha Country Prosecutor’s Office. Surely the people who won his conviction would have followed through.

Proponents of this reform said drug rehabilitation would be cheaper and more effective than imprisoning drug addicts.

But money is not the only cost for society when it comes to crime. If Salisbury is guilty -- and a court will decide that -- then a mother and her children just paid a price for the failure of the drug rehab program.

Drug rehabilitation officials should change their procedures and protect the public. Legislators and the governor should make sure they do.

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