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Adams County Drug Court celebrates one-year anniversary

May 18, 2005

Participants in the Adams County Drug Court will celebrate the one-year anniversary of the program today, May 18, in Natchez. A program is planned for 6:30 p.m. at Pilgrim Baptist Church on Wilson Road in Natchez.

Twenty-five people are now enrolled in the program, said Circuit Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders. Two of the original participants are on target to complete the 18-month program on time six months from now.

The Adams County Drug Court anniversary celebration coincides with National Drug Court Month. Graduation ceremonies and other special activities are being conducted in courts throughout the country this month. As of December 2004, 1,621 drug courts were in operation nationwide, according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Thirteen Drug Courts operate in Mississippi.

Judge Sanders began meeting with Drug Court participants in Adams County Circuit Court a year ago. In June, she hopes to expand the program to Wilkinson County. She had plans to begin accepting Drug Court participants in Amite and Franklin counties by the end of the year.

Judge Sanders said, “Drug Court has become for me a passion. I viewed it initially as a burden.”

Drug Courts in Mississippi are special courts which seek to rehabilitate drug-using offenders through drug treatment and intense supervision with drug testing and frequent court appearances. Drug courts offer the incentive of a chance to remain out of jail, and the sanction of a jail sentence if participants fail to remain drug-free and in compliance with all program requirements. Participants are required to work.

“I see us helping people,” Judge Sanders said. She says proudly of the 25 now enrolled, “None of them have committed another crime since they have been in Drug Court. We have 25 less victims out there. Most of them have gotten jobs. They are doing things they never would have imagined doing.”

The 18-month program begins with 30 to 45 days of drug treatment. After that, participants meet weekly with a Drug Court case manager and once every two weeks with Judge Sanders. Participants are subjected to frequent drug testing, supervision by members of the Drug Court team, and the sanction of going back to jail if they use drugs.

The odds are high that drug addicts will use drugs again. There have been some lapses. Judge Sanders recalled one man who celebrated getting a new job. “He ended up celebrating too much” and used drugs. “I almost cried,” she said.

“We are going to beat the odds. We are going to clean up everybody,” she said. The Adams County Drug Court does its work with existing court staff and volunteers. Judge Sanders, who led the effort to create Drug Court, gives the staff and volunteers credit for making the program work.

“It’s our Drug Court. We are a team. It belongs to all of us,” she said.

For more information about drug court programs in Mississippi, go to the web site of the Mississippi Supreme Court at www.mssc.state.ms.us and click on AOC.

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