Judge Michael Taylor appointed to State Drug Court Advisory Committee

August 24, 2006

The Mississippi Supreme Court has appointed 14th Circuit Court Judge Michael M. Taylor of Brookhaven to the State Drug Court Advisory Committee.

Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. signed the order Aug. 9. Judge Taylor’s term on the Advisory Committee started on Aug. 10 and continues through Dec. 31, 2007. Judge Taylor replaced Hinds County Court Judge Mike Parker, who was recently appointed as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi.

The State Drug Court Advisory Committee was established by the Mississippi Legislature to recommend improvements to drug court policies and procedures. The Advisory Committee was also responsible for developing statewide evaluation plans and models for monitoring critical aspects of drug court operations.

Judge Taylor said, “I’m looking forward to serving on the committee, getting more ideas from the other committee members and figuring out ways we can make a good program better.”

The 14th Circuit Drug Court over which Judge Taylor presides is the state’s oldest. Former Circuit Judge Keith Starrett established the Drug Court program in Lincoln, Pike and Walthall counties in 1999. Judge Taylor took over supervision of the Drug Court when he was appointed to the bench in February 2005.

Judge Taylor said the practical experience gathered through operation of the program can benefit other courts, and he looks forward to sharing that. “We’ve learned some things, and maybe we will be able to help some of the other drug courts avoid some of the problems we’ve encountered. I hope they can help us as well.”

Mississippi has 16 drug courts. Drug courts 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, and if they dropped out of school, they must pursue a General Education Development (GED) degree.

Judge Taylor said drug courts benefit the participants and the community. “It gives the participants the structure and the resources to change their lives while at the same time allowing them to be productive members of their community and able to fulfill their responsibilities to their families as well as their responsibilities to the state. The state saves a lot of money by not incarcerating these people, and the counties are able to get their fines and court costs paid. If these people were just locked up, the counties would likely never see these fines and fees.”

The 14th Circuit Drug Court collected $119,000 in fines in 2005, and more than $40,000 in fees. Those enrolled in the program pay to participate. About 160 people are enrolled. The fees cover approximately 20 percent of the cost of operating the program, Judge Taylor said.

The program also receives fees for providing drug testing for local schools, a community college and some government agencies, Judge Taylor said.