How does drug court work?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 16, 2003

McCOMB &045; The 14th Circuit Court includes Pike, Walthall and Lincoln counties.

Since 1999, Judge Keith Starrett has operated a special drug court within the district to provide substance abuse treatment and recovery opportunities for minor criminals with drug addictions.

Participants in the drug court must be recommended by the District Attorney’s Office, and drug dealers and violent criminals are not eligible for assignment to the program.

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Since participants enter guilty pleas to their criminal charges prior to entering the program, they can be sent to jail by Starrett at any time for failed drug tests or other deficiencies.

Participants who voluntarily report their relapses are treated more leniently than those who fail drug tests.

The drug court is divided into four phases:

Phase I

Phase I begins upon assignment to the program with 10 weeks of out-patient care, or from 42 days to six months of in-patient care at NewHaven Recovery Center in Brookhaven.

Phase II

Phase II can last one to two years and requires participants to report to Starrett’s court each Monday and undergo random drug-testing two to three times a week.

Participants must also meet with a probation officer, attend support meetings, and gain employment or become full-time students or community service volunteers.

Participants must also pay their fines and fees before moving up to Phase III.

Phase III

Phase III participants report to Starrett’s court on a monthly basis and continue to undergo drug-testing several times randomly each month.

Phase III normally lasts a year.

Phase IV

Phase IV is a non-reporting probationary period that lasts one year.