Drug court receives grant funds

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 4, 2015

This year, the state cut funding for drug courts across Mississippi by 25 percent. Recently, the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation approved a grant request for $75,000 to help the Fifteenth Judicial District Drug Court cover their expenses, Drug Court Coordinator Crystal Browning said.

The grant request was drafted by Fifteenth Circuit Court Judge Prentiss Harrell.

“The goal of the Fifteenth Judicial District Drug Court is to strike the balance between the need to protect community safety and the need to improve public health; between the need for treatment and the need to hold people accountable for their actions,” Harrell said in the foundation’s press release.

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Since 2008, drug court has served offenders by offering them treatment services to help them get off drugs.

“In order for them to qualify for the program, they have to plea to a felony charge,” Browning said. “They can be referred by law enforcement or the court. Normally their charge is suspended until they finish the program. When they finish the program, their charge could be expunged depending on the charge.”

Browning said the drug court staff focus on providing treatment options and supervision for program participants, who are non-violent, drug-possession offenders in Pearl River, Lawrence, Jefferson Davis, Lamar and Marion counties.

“They participate in the program for three years,” Browning said. “The first phase is more intensive, where we determine what each individual needs to start on the right foot to recovery.”

75 percent of drug court graduates don’t have any altercations with law enforcement and aren’t serving jail time, Browning said.

She credits many of their graduates’ success to the staff, who are passionate about their jobs and helping people on the road to recovery.

“We do drug tests on our current participants frequently, several times a week, and we also do home visits and make sure they’re drug free,” Browning said.

During the program, participants who haven’t graduated high school are required to get their GED.

The drug court will hold a graduation on May 15 at Resurrection Life Church for those who’ve completed the program. The guest speaker will be Chief Justice William L. Waller. Afterwards, a former drug court member will share her success story with the graduation class, Browning said.

“We keep growing here and getting more people so it means we need more of an income for drug court,” Browning said. “The foundation has been gracious enough to help us out. The grant helps fund drug court, our testing supplies and treatment operations.”

This is the third grant awarded to the program by the foundation.