Drug court goes to Commission for the go-ahead
District Attorney General Russell Johnson and General Sessions Court Judge Dennis Humphrey are expected to attend Monday’s Roane County Commission meeting to request support for their drug court proposal.
“The Roane County Drug Court Proposal is an expansion and enhancement of what we have already been trying to do ‘on our own’ without a formal structure, without a coordinator, without a counselor and, most importantly, without the backing of a provider of programs,” the drug court proposal states.
Humphrey will serve as the drug court judge.
A drug court coordinator and drug court counselor will be paid from a “three-year, $350,000 federal grant,” the proposal states.
“WestCare Foundation will be a sole source provider of service for the drug court,” the proposal states.
WestCare Foundation is a health and human services organization.
“Our plan is to have 50 participants in drug court at any given time,” the proposal states.
“It will utilize the services of WestCare that are already in place in Roane County and those that will be added with a drug court program.”
Criminal defendants who are put in the program “can expect six months of intensive treatment followed by at least six months of after care.”
Johnson had a discussion about drug court with the County Commission’s Sheriff’s Liaison Committee last
“It’s not a 100-percent success rate,” he said. “It may not even be a 50 percent success rate, but even a 40- to 45-percent success rate like the national model would be a good thing in reducing the cost to house these people in jail.”
Johnson described drug court as “intensive probation.”
“There’s supervision,” he said. “There’s drug testing.”
One of the goals of drug court is to reduce the recidivism rate in Roane County.
“That’s going to mean fewer victims of crime, less dollars spent on incarceration, less dollars spent on women in jail who have babies, men that have medical issues in jail, those things that really run up the cost for the county,” Johnson said.
The grant requires a 25-percent match, but “that can be made largely through Judge Humphrey, District Attorney Johnson and Public Defender Kim Nelson’s uncompensated time and contributions,” the drug court proposal states.
“There is a 10-percent match of the 25 percent – meaning only $8,750 over the three-year period,” the proposal continues.
“Therefore, Roane County gets a drug court for only $2,916 per
Nelson, who was elected to her first term as public defender last year, said she supports the proposal because drugs are the reason many of her clients end up in trouble.
“A lot of the clients we see in Roane County, and in the other counties in the district, a lot of the problems stem from their addictions to various drugs,” Nelson said.
“I think the best way to help our clients is to address the core issue of why they’re getting in trouble.”
Judicial officials would meet with the drug court participants on a weekly basis in the courtroom, according to Johnson.
“Of course, the coordinator and counselor would meet with them more frequently than that,” he said.
“It will take about a couple of hours extra court time each week from my staff, Kim’s staff and Judge Humphrey, but it’s something that we think will pay dividends in the long run.”
Johnson said the criteria on who can participate in drug court has not been set, but he said sex offenders and violent felons will definitely not be eligible.
“The criteria for eligibility won’t actually be set until the grant’s in place,” Johnson said.
Drug court is different from two programs
being proposed by the Roane County Sheriff’s Office.
One is a substance abuse program for female inmates, and the other is a mentoring program for young fathers.
Both of those programs would also involve WestCare.