Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Felony DUI offenders in Pike County get alcohol treatment program

March 21, 2002

Pike County's Drug Court is expanding April 1 with a separate program to offer treatment for alcoholics facing third offense felony charges of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Participants will be treated with the drug Revia, which curbs cravings for alcohol, said Pike County Court Judge John Price. Participants will receive oral doses of the medication five times a week under supervision to assure that they take the medicine.

Circuit Judge Keith Starrett organized and obtained funding for the new program. Starrett's 14th Circuit Drug Court staff will handle the cases. Judge Price will preside over the Pike County cases to be assigned to him from Circuit Court.

Starrett in the past has included DUI offenders in the Drug Court he started in February 1999 in the 14th Circuit Court District, which includes Lincoln, Pike and Walthall counties. DUI cases approved by arresting officers and prosecutors for inclusion in the Drug Court program in Lincoln and Walthall counties will remain on Starrett's docket.

Starrett said he saw a need for treatment of alcoholics who commit crimes.

"The goal of this program is long-term sobriety for alcoholics and to keep drunks off the road. If there are fewer drunks on the road, then our streets and communities are safer," Starrett said.

Starrett said he sees between 50 and 75 prosecutions a year for third time felony DUI in the 14th District. Some of those are referred to Drug Court. DUI offenders comprise 15 to 20 percent of the participants in Drug Court, Starrett said.

Starrett said two of the people participating in Drug Court now have multiple DUI convictions that included prison sentences. Starrett said prison alone is not an effective deterrent.

"I've sent them to the penitentiary twice on separate felony DUIs," Starrett said. "Both of them were back and both got a DUI very quickly," Starrett said.

Starrett said he believes the drug Revia offers hope to help alcoholics. Some of the DUI offenders who have gone through his Drug Court have taken Revia. However, some people were not able to afford the treatments, which cost about $100 a month, Starrett said.

The new program will cover the cost of the drugs if participants do not have insurance or other health coverage. The program will also pay for medical intake screening and periodic medical monitoring at Southwest Regional Medical Center in McComb, Starrett said.

The program budget is $44,250 for a year, Starrett said. Starrett said 75 percent of the funding comes from a federal grant administered through the state Department of Public Safety Planning. The attorney general's office provided the 25 percent local matching funds from Drug Court money appropriated by the Mississippi Legislature.

Judge Price said he expects to be able to handle about 25 participants.

Participants will be sentenced to a year of house arrest. A sentence of at least one year is mandatory for third time DUI offenders under Mississippi Code Section 63-11-30. A third DUI conviction is a felony. An attorney general's opinion states that the one-year sentence may be served under house arrest.

Participants will be subject to electronic monitoring with an ankle bracelet, Price said. They will be under the supervision of a Department of Corrections probation officer. They will report weekly to Price.

For more information, contact Beverly Pettigrew Kraft, court public information officer, at 601-354-7452.