Adams County to cut drug court funding?

Published 12:03 am Monday, September 5, 2016

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors is proposing cutting its contribution to adult drug court from $30,000 to $10,000.

Adams County Circuit Court Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders, who is the judge for the program, said she knows money is tight but drug court should not be cut.

The drug court program is designed to provide an alternative to costly incarceration for those convicted of drug crimes. Sanders said drug court works by getting individuals off drugs and into jobs.

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“We take participants and they become taxpayers because they have to work instead of being people out there in the street committing more crimes to get more drugs,” Sanders said. “Our participants rarely commit additional crimes.”

Board of Supervisors President Mike Lazarus said only two counties in the state contribute money to similar drug courts — Yazoo and Hinds. Lazarus said Adams County would scale back to $10,000, the same amount the two example counties pay.

Lazarus said the drug court is supposed to operate off of fees from the participants.

Sanders said she has spoken to judges around the state and counties do contribute to drug court, they just don’t have a specific line item for it. Sanders said capital is allocated through the circuit court fund.

With prescription drug abuse being more common lately, Sanders said drug court does get people who have jobs coming in who can pay the fees. But some of the participants are coming in so strung out on harder drugs that it might take six months to a year to get them to where they can even hold down a job.

“We have to work with what we get,” she said. “We don’t get to pick and choose.

“You can’t pay drug court fees if you don’t have a job.”

Sanders said the more participants a court has, the more that can be collected in fees. But with a limited staff due to state cuts and now facing county cuts, it is difficult to have more participants.

“One counselor cannot supervise 100 people and meet with them and have meaningful counseling,” Sanders said. “These people are coming in with baggage and problems.”

The Adams County drug court also serves Wilkinson, Amite and Franklin counties. Sanders said 90 percent of the participants are from Adams County.

Sanders said she hoped the county would continue to support the drug court because drugs impact everyone.

“Drugs don’t just affect one neighborhood or poor people,” she said. “Drugs don’t care whether you are rich, poor, black, white, green or other, they affect everybody.”