Know someone who has been arrested and facing possible jail time for a drug charge? In Knox County, some folks in that situation have a choice. Go to jail, or, if you qualify, go to drug court.
Patricia Sears, head of the Knox County Drug Court program, updated the local UNITE chapter about the success of that program at their meeting on Monday.
According to Sears, the county now has a juvenile, adult, and a family drug court program. “Drug court is a once-in-a-lifetime program.” Sears told the group. She added that it is voluntary, and judges are not required to offer the program. Plus, it is very time consuming for the judges. Yet, both the local district and circuit courts do offer the program.
So why do local judges, the county attorney’s office and folks like Sears offer drug court instead of just sending people to jail for their offenses? Sears says, statewide figures show “Drug court is 25% of the cost of incarceration. Only 20.2% of the drug court graduates come back into the system within two years, compared to a 57.3% felony conviction rate from those that did not participate.”
She also explained that participants must be referred by the County Attorney’s office. Those committing violent crimes, those facing weapons charges, and sex offenders are not eligible. Participants in the program must have reliable transportation.
“Drug Court is not just punishment. It is trying to get people on the right track,” added Claudia Greenwood, from the County Attorney’s office.
According to figures Sears shared with UNITE, the program has been highly successful. She noted that from January of 2004 until July 31, 2014:
*Local Drug Court participants have paid over $51,534.00 in child support payments, $36,111.00 in court cost, and $13,830.00 in restitution.
* They have performed 28,616 hours of community service. Fourteen have completed their GED and two completed high school while in the program.
* 22 “Drug Free” babies have been born to participants.
Sears told the group that of the 351 referred, only 249 were eligible to enter the program. She considers 110 of those successful. “That is a pretty high rate.” Sears said.