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

National drug court leaders to speak at Jackson conference May 9-11

May 4, 2007

Two leaders in the national drug court movement are the opening speakers Wednesday, May 9, in Jackson for the Third Annual Mississippi Association of Drug Court Professionals Training Conference. The conference will continue through May 11 at the downtown Marriott Hotel on Amite Street.

At 1:45 p.m. May 9, West Huddleston III of Alexandria, Va., and retired judge Jeffrey Tauber of Berkeley, Calif., will discuss the growing national drug court movement.

May is National Drug Court Month. Activities are scheduled throughout the month in many of the state’s 19 drug courts.

Huddleston said, “The theme of National Drug Court Month ties into our initiative to take drug courts ‘to scale’ so that the millions of substance-abusing offenders arrested each year in the United States can have access to treatment and a chance to turn their lives around. We’ve seen many successes in the hundreds of thousands of addicted offenders that have passed through drug courts to date. Now it is time to expand this winning formula to address the millions of others in need.”

Mississippi has 14 adult drug courts and five juvenile drug courts. Eleven other programs are in planning stages.

Huddleston is chief executive officer of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and executive director of the National Drug Court Institute. He is a licensed substance abuse counselor who worked with misdemeanor and felony offenders at the county, state and federal levels in Tennessee and Oklahoma justice systems.

Tauber initiated and presided over design and implementation of one of the nation’s earliest drug courts in Oakland, Calif. He was founding president of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, serving 1994-2001. In 1998, in collaboration with the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, he founded the National Drug Court Institute and became its first executive director. In June 1999, the International Association of Drug Court Professionals elected Tauber as its first chairperson of the board of directors. In 2001, Tauber became executive director of the Center for Problem Solving Courts.

At 4:30 Wednesday, Hinds County Adult Drug Court graduates Maria Balius, Sarah Johnson and Thomas Bowen will talk about their experiences with drug addiction and recovery. Balius and Johnson work at New Life for Women Substance Abuse Center. Balius is a house manager, and Johnson is an administrative assistant. Bowen is shop foreman at an auto glass installation company.

Thursday’s noon luncheon speaker is U.S. Magistrate Judge Mike Parker of Hattiesburg. Judge Parker previously presided over the Hinds County Adult Drug Court.

Total enrollment in drug courts statewide is 1,242, according to State Drug Court Coordinator Joey Craft. Since January 2005, 314 people have graduated from Mississippi drug courts, participants have paid $1,318,893.30 in fines and fees, and 57 drug-free babies have been born to drug court participants.

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.