Conference Highlights Drug Courts

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Proponents of Mississippi Drug Court programs say they provide non-violent drug offenders with an opportunity to get off drugs and become productive citizens by providing extensive drug treatment, as opposed to incarceration.

"We see the benefits on a daily basis," said Margaret Carey-McCray, a judge in Mississippi's 4th circuit court district. "They help them stay in recovery."

Eighty percent of criminal offenders are involved with drugs and/or alcohol. Officials say most are addicted.

"The drug will cause them to become criminals if they don't get that habit, as we say it in layman's terms, that 'monkey off their backs,' " said Robert Moore, chief of the Jackson Police Department.

"When you look at the cost of incarceration, $25,000 per year per inmate compared to $2500 to $3,000 for an 18-month to three-year program in drug court, the savings is phenomenal," said Judge Carey-McCary. "Every department involved benefits but the community is the greatest benefactor. People are restored and productive in the community."