Desoto County, Mississippi Drug Court is an alternative to prison for people who have been convicted of a non-violent felony crime as a result of an underlying drug addiction. The drug court gives potential inmates a second chance by offering the option of kicking drugs instead of spending time in the state penitentiary. Keeping them out of prison also saves taxpayers money and reduces the strain on the already overcrowded prison system. Circuit Court Judge Robert “Bobby” Chamberlin saw a need for a drug court in the 17th Circuit Court District and started accepting participants into the program in DeSoto County in August 2006.
The program takes a minimum of three years and up to five years to complete. Last year, 13 people graduated from the first drug court class. This year, 23 people graduated from the program and enrollment in the program has increased with 236 active participants. “Just throwing people in jail doesn’t work,” said Craig Sheley, coordinator of the 17th District Drug Court. “The reality of it is most of the people we see are really good people who have just gotten caught in the cycle of addiction. Once you get them clean and sober they want to quit.” To complete the program, participants must remain clean and sober for 36 consecutive months. They must complete these 36 months within five years of beginning the program. So far, only twenty percent of the people who have started the program have failed to complete it.
In addition to these positive rehabilitation numbers, the 17th District Drug Court appears to be working on the fiscal front as well. It has already saved taxpayers approximately $1,481,535. Each participant, had they not gone through the drug court program, would have cost an average of $41 per day to house, feed and care for in the state penitentiary. So the three years each drug court graduate spent in the program, had they been in prison, would have cost the state $44,895 each. Each participant must also pay $100 per month to cover the costs of the drug court program.
As local Desoto County, MS attorneys, we see how the benefits of alternative programs such as the 17th District Drug Court can positively affect our community. We applaud the Drug Court for its success thus far, and hope to see these programs continue making a positive impact not only on the Desoto County, MS residents, but also on all taxpaying citizens of the State of Mississippi.
“Drug Court saves lives, money” by JB Clark, The Desoto Times, Thursday, December 16, 2010