Drug court participants graduate

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 16, 2015

The 15th Judicial District Drug Court had its graduation ceremony Friday at Resurrection Life Center, and had 54 graduates.
It is the second biggest drug court in the state, and was started in 1996 by Judge Keith Starrett, who is now the federal judge of the southern district of Hattiesburg.
Drug court is a three year program for non-violent drug offenders as an alternative to jail.
According to Judge Prentiss Harrell it is a very structured program in which the participants are required to meet with him at least once a week, take a drug test at least twice a week, and maintain a steady job. Upon entering drug court, if the participant does not have a high school diploma they must acquire their GED.
If drug court participants fail to comply with any of these stipulations they are sanctioned, and may be sent to jail for the weekend or be assigned community service work, said Harrell. If they still fail to comply they could be sent to jail permanently.
According to Harrell, drug court has saved the state of Mississippi about
$4 million a year by keeping its participants out of jail.
“It’s a really good thing, but we have to work with them,” said Harrell. “We take it one step at a time.”
Up to this point, Harrell said the program has survived off grant funds and has not cost the taxpayer any money.
Sheriff David Allison attended the graduation Friday to show his support for the program.
“I’m glad we have it in Pearl River County, It’s a good opportunity for people to get off drugs and get their life together,” said Allison.
Drug court graduate Elmer Miller credits everything to the program.
“Without drug court I never would have made it,” said Miller.

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