Judge touts success of drug court
by James Phillips
Oct 29, 2012 | 3268 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In its two years of existence, the Walker County Drug Court has graduated 52 people and saved the taxpayers of Walker County more than $2 million in incarceration costs.

The drug court program is overseen by Walker County Circuit Judge Doug Farris. It is part of a statewide deferred prosecution plan. The effort is a partnership between the judicial circuit and the Walker County District Attorney’s Office. The program is available to first-time, nonviolent drug offenders and takes about 12 to 18 months to complete.

“This program is cost-free to the citizens of Walker County,” Farris recently told members of the Rotary Club of Jasper. “It is an intensive drug treatment program, and it has shown to be very effective.”

Of the program’s 52 graduates, Farris said only two have been re-arrested.

“We track our graduates for two years,” Farris said. “We had two re-arrested in Cullman County. We are proud of the success we’ve seen so far.”

There are currently 50 people enrolled in the Walker County Drug Court, and 14 other individuals in long-term rehab who will join the program.

As a part of the program, participants must appear in court once each week, pass multiple drug screenings, maintain employment and pay all their fines and restitution. Farris said in the program’s first two years participants have paid back more than $120,000 in restitution.

Graduates of the program receive a certificate of completion and an order of dismissal on the charges they were facing.

“The No. 1 goal of the drug court is to turn around people’s lives,” Farris said. “That is happening at the Walker County Drug Court.”

Drug courts are now mandatory in Alabama. Farris said 64 of 68 court districts now have drug courts. He said the program is helping to alleviate the state’s prison crowding problem.

“Our prisons are at 195 percent capacity,” he said. “These programs are a cost-saving measure for the state. The Walker County Drug Court has saved $2 million in prison costs in its two years.”

Community service is also a part of the program, Farris said. Participants have logged more than 7,500 hours of community service in two years.

“We are always looking for new partners for our community service efforts,” Farris said. “Any groups needing help with a project can contact my office.”

For more information on the Walker County Drug Court, contact Farris at 205-384-7234.