Pubdate: Thu, 29 May 2003
Source: Albany Herald, The (GA)
Author: Alan Maudlin


A drug education program at the Dougherty County Jail is shaping up as a

ALBANY - County prisoners are not only cutting time off their sentences by
attending drug-education courses, the inmates and others convicted of drug
offenses are also picking up the tab for the classes.

The program has reaped $162,000 in savings for taxpayers in a little more
than two years and is credited with dramatically reducing the number of drug
offenders who return for more county hospitality, the Dougherty County
Sheriff's Department said.

The department briefed the Dougherty County Commission Wednesday on the
progress of the Controlled Substance Education Program begun in January

The notion of drug offenders paying for classes that help keep them out of
jail is impressing some county residents aware of the program.

"I think people who perpetuate the crime ought to pay for the drugs they
do," said Gerald Davis, 66, of Albany as he headed into a drug store in East
Albany Wednesday afternoon. "I like the idea" of the education program.

Davis said that drug users prey on the community by stealing to support
their habit.

The program at the Dougherty jail is paid for with a 50-percent surcharge
tacked on top of fines imposed by judges on those convicted of possession,
manufacture, transaction and sales of controlled substances. State law
allows the funds to be used for education programs.

In calculating the savings, the sheriff's department calculated the amount
of good credit days accrued by inmates. Inmates who finish the program get
one day shaved off their sentence for each seven days served.

Inmates may either be ordered into the program by a judge or, if they have a
history of drug use, apply to take the class, said sheriff's Cpl. Thomas
Kendrick Jr., who heads the program. Kendrick said of the 138 offenders who
took the classes and have been released, only 13 percent, or 18 offenders,
have returned to jail. That's compared with a 50 percent-plus recidivism
rate for drug offenders who didn't enroll in the program.

Kendrick said he thinks the program is worthwhile.

"If we can help one person, I feel we did something positive," he said.

Albany resident Dee Motley said the classes sound like a good idea "if it
keeps them off drugs."

"That's good. Maybe it will rehabilitate them," Motley, 50, said as she sat
in a pickup truck outside Harvey's Supermarket on Sylvester Road Thursday
afternoon. "It sounds like it's helping."
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