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

Drug Court advancement ceremony scheduled for January 16

January 8, 2007

The Eighth Circuit Drug Court on Jan. 16 will recognize the accomplishments of eight people who are advancing to the final phase of the program. The ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the second floor courtroom of the Leake County Courthouse in Carthage.

State Auditor Phil Bryant will be the guest speaker. Circuit Judge Vernon Cotten will preside.

It is the first advancement ceremony for the Eighth Circuit Drug Court, which Judge Cotten has operated since January 2004 in Leake, Neshoba, Newton and Scott counties. Currently, 102 people are enrolled in all phases of the program.

The participants who are being recognized for their achievements have remained drug- and alcohol-free and have met all other requirements of the program. Since their enrollment in the program, “none of these people have tested dirty for illegal drugs,” said Eighth District Drug Court Coordinator Marcus Ellis.

They will remain enrolled in the Drug Court program for one more year. The final phase which they must complete is a year of non-reporting probation. Ellis said that phase is their opportunity to “demonstrate their ability to live a life of sobriety absent supervision of the court.”

Eighteen drug courts operate in Mississippi. Drug courts 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.

Drug Court participants are required to complete drug treatment at their own expense. Participants in the early phases of the Drug Court program are subjected to intensive supervision, frequent drug testing, and weekly meetings with Judge Cotten to give an accounting of their progress. As they progress through the program, they are subjected to less frequent meetings with probation officers and the judge.

They must pay all fines and fees. They must get and keep a job. Those who do not have a high school diploma must pursue a General Education Development (GED) degree. Some are required to do community service work.

People charged with non-violent drug-related offenses and whose underlying problem is drug or alcohol addiction may be considered for acceptance into the Drug Court program with the approval of local law enforcement. Those charged as drug dealers and sellers are prohibited from participation in the program.

Drug Court participants must plead guilty and maintain a program of good behavior. If they complete a program of good behavior for five years, some may have their records wiped clean. However, those charged with third time felony driving under the influence of alcohol are not eligible to have their records expunged.