Pubdate: Tue, 11 Feb 2003
Source: Sun Herald (MS)
Copyright: 2003, The Sun Herald
Author: Beth Musgrave


Supervision Would Replace Jail Time

BILOXI - Harrison County supervisors on Monday unanimously approved funding 
to start a drug court, one of the first of its kind in the state.

Circuit Judges Robert Walker, Stephen Simpson and Jerry O. Terry have been 
pushing for the new drug court because they believe it will help people 
kick drug habits that lead to violent crimes.

"If you can truly get these people off of drugs, they're not going to 
commit another crime," Walker said. "They're going to be making a living 
and paying taxes. And their families will be off welfare rolls."

The cost for the first year of the program will be about $90,000. Harrison 
County approved a $58,000 appropriation on Monday. Walker will meet with 
Stone and Hancock County supervisors later this month about funding the 
program. The bulk of the funding will come from program participants, who 
will pay $50 each month and also will pay for inpatient drug treatment.

Pending approval from Stone and Hancock counties, the new court should 
begin by late spring or summer, Walker said. There will be about 40 
enrolled in the program by the end of its first year, he said.

Instead of serving jail time, people would be placed under intensive 
supervision, meeting with probation officers at least once a week. The 
program is voluntary, and only first-time offenders can qualify.

Supervisors discussed the drug court last week but decided to table the 
issue until they received more information.

Supervisor William Martin, who made the motion to fund the court, said he 
believes there is enough evidence to prove that drug courts are effective.

"If we get on board with it and it's successful, then it may be something 
that they will look at statewide," Martin said.

District Attorney Cono Caranna, who has been pushing for a drug court for 
more than three years, said it will be one of the first in the state.

He said other programs started in Harrison County courts have become models 
for others or have been adopted statewide. If successful, the drug court 
could be a model as well, he said.
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