What Are Drug Courts?
Drug courts are designed to address the substance abuse problems that drive people to commit crimes by treating the disease of addiction in an attempt to curb criminal behavior. Drug court programs focus on rehabilitating nonviolent drug offenders.
A highly specialized team approach allows drug courts to operate within the existing court structure. They are unique in the criminal justice environment because they build a close relationship between criminal justice and drug treatment professionals. Within a cooperative courtroom atmosphere, the judge heads a team of court staff, attorneys, probation officers, substance abuse evaluators, and treatment counselors all working in concert to support and monitor a participant's recovery.
Intensive supervision, frequent drug testing and court appearances are elements of the rigorous drug court program. Participants are often required to participate in General Education Development (GED) classes and/or keep a job.
Drug courts offer a powerful incentive for participants to change their behavior. If they don't stay clean, they go to jail.
Why Do We Need Drug Courts?
A revolution has been going on in the criminal justice system. It began at the grass roots level with a few people who realized that the old approach - incarceration and more incarceration - wasn't working. As the number of drug offenders kept increasing, there simply were not enough jails and prisons to hold them.
In Mississippi, there has been a major increase in the number of arrests overall, the number of arrests in drug cases, and the percentage of those being sentenced to serve time in state institutions.
Drug courts offer significant cost savings by replacing expensive per inmate annual incarceration costs with less expensive treatment services. Treatment and related services are offered to offenders soon after arrest. Drug offenders are required to stick with a treatment program and are closely supervised in the community. The result is a substantial reduction in drug use and recidivism.
How Do Drug Courts Work?
Potential drug court participants come under the court's supervision very soon after arrest. Upon acceptance to the drug court, participants begin an individually structured treatment program lasting generally from twelve (12) to thirty-six (36) months. Participants are required to attend treatment sessions, undergo random drug testing, meet regularly with probation officers and/or case managers, and appear frequently before the drug court judge.
Who Is Eligible For Drug Court?
Mississippi's drug courts target adult and juvenile substance abusing, nonviolent defendants and juvenile offenders who have undergone both a legal review and a clinical assessment by drug court team members. Persons excluded from participation in drug court include those who have prior convictions or pending charges for a violent offense. Drug dealers and those being currently charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling are also excluded. Other exclusions and eligibility criteria are set out in Miss. Code Ann. § 9-23-15.
What Do Drug Courts Offer?
Mississippi's drug courts include a multi-phased judicial process coupled with treatment services and intensive probation supervision. Mississippi's drug courts target adult and juvenile substance abusing, nonviolent defendants and juvenile offenders who have undergone both a legal review and a clinical assessment by drug court team members. Persons excluded from participation in drug court include those who have prior convictions or pending charges for a violent offense. Drug dealers and those being currently charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling are also excluded. Other exclusions and eligibility criteria are set out in Miss. Code Ann. § 9-23-15.
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Mississippi's drug court design is based on the 10 Key Components of drug courts as published by the Drug Court Program Office of the United States Department of Justice. These fundamental elements establish the foundation from which all drug court policies and operating procedures are formed.
An expansive and unique drug court model is emerging in Mississippi that targets non-violent substance abusing defendants and juvenile offenders who otherwise, without drug courts, would be bound for state prison, county jail, or back on the streets.