Hinds County Drug Court graduation is May 4

April 29, 2004

Attorney General Jim Hood will be the guest speaker at a Hinds County Drug Court graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 4, at 6 p.m. The program will be in Courtroom No. 1 at the Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson.

The graduation is scheduled during National Drug Court Month.

At least three participants are expected to graduate. Others will be recognized for their progress in the Drug Court program.

Forty-two people have previously graduated from the Hinds County Drug Court program, which began enrolling participants in March 2000.

Hinds County Judge Mike Parker, who presides over Drug Court, said participants who are graduating have earned their way through the program with hard work and changed lives.

"If they are not serious about it, they don't graduate. They go to jail," Judge Parker said.

Drug courts treat addiction in an attempt to curb criminal behavior. Drug courts use intensive supervision, drug testing, treatment and immediate sanctions and incentives.

Judge Parker said it's critical to identify and refer people to Drug Court soon after arrest.

"If you have someone who is actively using drugs and they are out in the community with an addiction problem, they are getting worse and perhaps committing more crimes," Judge Parker said.

Judge Parker and nine others from Hinds County this week attended Drug Court Planning Initiative training in Philadelphia, Pa. The three-day program, which concluded Thursday, was presented by the National Drug Court Institute. Training emphasized quickly identifying candidates for drug court, streamlining the process for getting people into drug court and managing cases in drug court.

Attending the training were Hinds County District Attorney Faye Peterson, Hinds County Public Defender Tom Fortner, Assistant Public Defender Mary Helen Wall, Drug Court Coordinator Brenda Mathis, Department of Mental Health treatment provider liaison Darlene Murphy, Hinds County Sheriff's Department booking officer Lt. Larry Hale, Department of Corrections Probation Officer Tasha Davis, Cynthia Hulitt of the Hinds County Information Technology Division, and Administrative Office of Courts Project Manager Joey Craft.

The training is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Eleven drug courts operate in Mississippi, and five are in the planning stages. Programs now in operation are the 2nd Circuit of Hancock, Harrison and Stone Counties; the 4th Circuit of Leflore, Sunflower and Washington counties; the 7th Circuit of Hinds County; the 8th Circuit of Leake, Neshoba, Newton and Scott counties; the 11th Circuit in Bolivar and Coahoma counties; the 12th Circuit of Forrest and Perry counties; the 14th Circuit of Lincoln, Pike and Walthall counties; the 19th Circuit of George, Greene and Jackson counties; Adams County Youth Court; Madison County Youth Court; and Ridgeland Municipal Court.

Programs in the planning stages include the 3rd Circuit in Lafayette County; the 6th Circuit in Adams County; the 9th Circuit in Issaquena, Sharkey and Warren counties; DeSoto County Youth Court; and Forrest County Youth Court.