Drug Court advocates worry about budget cut's impact - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Drug Court advocates worry about budget cut's

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Nearly 600 people graduated from Mississippi drug courts last year. But with an over $3 million budget cut, those numbers could change dramatically. Nearly 600 people graduated from Mississippi drug courts last year. But with an over $3 million budget cut, those numbers could change dramatically.
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Nearly 600 people graduated from Mississippi drug courts last year. But with an over $3 million budget cut, those numbers could change dramatically.

"To maintain our current level of funding, we would need an additional $4 million a year from some other source," said Kevin Lackey, Director of Administrative Office of Courts.

The Drug Court Advisory Committee says the current funding allowed for the creation and maintenance of the courts for 10 years. But they can't sustain them without the added funding. There was some legislation that would have created additional funding, but none of it survived the latest legislative session.

Now, juvenile and family courts are bracing for the biggest cut at 58 percent.

"Whether or not the juvenile drug courts will be able to handle the same number of clients is very doubtful," Lackey said.

But advocates say the youth program is the most promising.

"Obviously we're concerned because if you don't help them at that stage then more than likely, they're going to end up in the adult felony system," explained Lackey.

But when it comes down to the dollars and cents, drug courts save the state money. A Mississippi Department of Correction inmate's cost per day is $41. A drug court participant's cost per day is $7.89.

"The success rates are better. The costs are decreased. We have better outcomes in our communities and safer communities. So those two things working together with a treatment system works," said Jerri Avery with the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services.

Drug court participants are held accountable for staying in treatment programs for the necessary amount of time. That's another factor that Avery says decreases repeat problems.

"Punishing people and saying you're doing bad is not the same as here's how you can do better and how's we can help you do better. And that's what our treatment centers offer," Avery said. 

None of the courts have said they will be forced to close at this time, but many could see reduced services. They are funded through a combination of local and state money. But not every court generates enough local funding to stay afloat. Those are the courts in the most jeopardy.

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