Hinds Justice Court approved for Drug Court training

November 23, 2004

Organizers of a drug court for Hinds County Justice Court have been accepted for training in a national program which will teach them how to create and implement a drug court for misdemeanor offenders.

The Drug Court Planning Initiative training, paid for through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance and presented by the National Drug Court Institute, teaches participants how to more effectively operate a drug court.

Hinds County Justice Court Judge Nicki Martinson Boland is leading efforts to form a drug court in Justice Court. Judge Boland said she wants to create a problem-solving court that will address the alcohol and drug problems that are underlying factors in many of the misdemeanor cases that come before her court. Addressing those causes may prevent misdemeanor offenders from graduating to felony crimes.

Judge Boland said, “I think drug and alcohol abuse is a pervasive common denominator in most of the misdemeanors committed by the defendants in Justice Court. What I would like to see happen is intervention. I believe the cost savings to the community and the county and the state would be phenomenal.”

The Hinds County Justice Court Drug Court is in the planning stages. A timetable has not yet been established for the court to become operational.

Hinds County Court Judge Mike Parker, who presides over the felony Drug Court, as well as members of the Drug Court staff have provided assistance to the Justice Court program.

“We’ve had the good fortune to have his experience,” Judge Boland said. “He’s blazed the trail for us.”

Judge Boland is already incorporating the treatment element of drug courts in some of her cases. Some defendants are screened for alcohol and drug use and are referred to treatment.

Denise Pendleton of The Jackson Good Samaritan Center handles probation services in Justice Boland’s court. Pendleton is expected to serve as the drug court coordinator when the Hinds County Justice Court program becomes operational.

Judge Boland and Pendleton are expected to attend National Drug Court Institute training in January or February 2005. Exact dates and locations have not been set.

Judge Boland and Pendleton, County Attorney Malcolm Harrison, Jennifer Riley-Collins from the Mississippi Center for Justice and Capt. Nate Ross of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department, treatment providers and other yet to be named members of a drug court team are expected to attend two additional training sessions in 2005.

Completion of the training would make the drug court eligible for consideration for a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance. Hundreds of drug courts around the nation compete for the grants. Completion of the training would also make Judge Boland's drug court program eligible for partial funding from the Administrative Office of Courts. The state drug court fund derives money from special assessments on criminal court fines.