Starting January 1, eighth Circuit Court Judge Vernon Cotten says he will have in place a somewhat new but under funded concept, a drug court for his district. Currently, there are nine in the state. Cotten's drug court would serve his district which includes Leake, Neshoba, Newton and Scott Counties.
Drug courts are for non-violent offenders who are drug addicts, not for those who sell drugs. Lasting about four to five years, Judge Cotten says the program requires participants not to use drugs and meet weekly with program officials, therapists, a probation officer and a judge, something which he says can be tough.
In fact, Judge Cotton says it's so tough that the participants’ privacy is limited when it comes to some matters. He says because many people try to beat the system drug courts require participants to take random drug test but there's a catch. Program officials must monitor the process in its entirety!
As part of the program participants are also required to hold down a steady job. If any of the terms are violated the person must serve the jail time which would have initially been required. Compared to incarceration, national figures show drug courts have a significantly higher success rate.
Incarceration - 20% to 30%
Drug Courts - 70% to 80%
With this in mind supporters of the program say it's not only proven to reduce welfare rolls but to ultimately save taxpayers money.
"The typical costs for a person to be incarcerated is $17,000 to $20,000 a year as opposed to drug court where the cost is $1,500 to $2,000. There's a big difference," Judge Cotten.
With no funding from the state, Judge Cotten says he's still determined to have his drug court up and running for the start of the new year, even if it's with only a skeletal staff.
As supporters of the program continue to seek federal grants and other funding we have learned that the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is also being targeted as a possible contributor. There's still no word on whether or not that will happen.