Pubdate: Sat, 12 Jan 2008
Source: Anderson Independent-Mail (SC)
Copyright: 2008 Independent Publishing Company, a division of E.W. Scripps
Author: Vince Jackson, Special to the Independent-Mail
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


The 10th Judicial Circuit recently announced that efforts are underway
toward the formation of a Drug Court for Anderson and Oconee counties.

Once the court is operating, qualifying drug-related criminal cases
will be handled there, officials said.

"Drug Court is an opportunity for persons whose drug addiction has led
to criminal behavior to change their lives and become productive
members of the community," according the 10th Circuit Web site.

10th Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams said, "We are very excited about
this addition to our judicial process in the 10th Circuit. The
importance of a drug court is that it may keep an individual from
going to jail for a drug-related crime, if there is any chance that
they can become a productive citizen. This is especially important for
juvenile offenders, who may now be offered an alternative to jail."

There are two planned components of the new 10th circuit program,
juvenile and adult.

The juvenile component will be a treatment-based program for young
people whose crimes are directly related to drug addiction.
Participants will be required to plead guilty to their crimes and
attend substance-abuse counseling and employment training.

If the program requirements are met, then the guilty plea will be
withdrawn, and charges will be dropped. If a participant fails to
complete the program, that person's suspended sentence will be
activated, along with any punishment that was to have been a part of
that sentence.

The adult section of the court is similar to the juvenile section, but
an additional 18 months of case management, drug screening and
court-supervised outpatient counseling will be required.

The cost of the program will be paid partly by the participants and
partly with state and drug-enforcement money, officials said.

Participants will need to be fully employed throughout the entire
length of the program or face dismissal.

Tasha Metcalf of the 10th Circuit Solicitor's Office wrote an
implementation grant as well as requests for state and local money for
the Drug Court. Ms. Metcalf and others have been involved in
specialized training with the National Association of Drug Court
Professionals as part of a certification process.

"All of the professionals have been specially trained for these
duties," Ms. Metcalf said. "This includes the judges, public
defenders, police, case managers, drug counselors and the solicitor.
Our goal is to set a very high standard and expect results."

Attorney Nancy Jo Thomason is one of many professionals who have
volunteered time to help the new Drug Court.

"This will be a challenging and rewarding process for me," Ms.
Thomason said, adding that her role will be one of defense advocate.

"While we are not sure what surprises are in store for us, rest
assured that it will be intense and interesting," Ms. Thomason said.

Ms. Metcalf indicated that South Carolina Department of Health and
Environmental Control approval is needed to begin the program.

"Since we will be considered an outpatient facility, we will have to
meet DHEC guidelines, and that is primarily what we are waiting on at
the moment," Ms. Metcalf said.

It is not certain how long it will take to acquire the health
department approval, officials said.
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