Drug court gives meth addicts a second chance

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2006

The manufacture and use of meth is bringing many people into the legal system, some who would likely not have committed a crime if they hadn't become addicted to the drug.

A program called Drug Court allows addicts whose offense was connected to their habit, or those that are first-time offenders, a chance to reclaim their lives and face the future with a clean record.

Tina Coker, chief deputy district attorney and John Andrews, district attorney for the Second Judicial District, comprising Butler, Crenshaw and Lowndes counties, work with local law enforcement and other agencies to aid the Drug Court participants.

&#8220Anyone considered for Drug Court has to be evaluated by our court referral officer to establish there is a bonefide addiction and what their drug of choice is,” Coker said.

&#8220Once they have passed that, they do have to plead guilty to the felony in front of Judge McFerrin. That sentence is suspended once they enter the program.”

The Drug Court participant spends the next year involved in drug treatment, counseling and self-improvement classes. He or she is also expected to be gainfully employed, Coker said. The participants must work toward paying their court costs and restitution.

&#8220Those who have not completed their high school education are encouraged to work toward their GED,” Coker said.

Drug Court participants are also expected to attend NA or AA meetings.

Once they have been evaluated as having successfully completed the program, the Drug Court participants' records are expunged and they don't have to serve any penitentiary time.

&#8220Those who fail to complete the program, who get in more trouble along the way, will have to do prison time, usually about 18 months,” Coker said.

The Drug Court program is one that is &#8220pretty well-liked and pretty successful,” the deputy district attorney said.

However, she also said it is a little tougher to succeed for those battling meth addiction.

&#8220Meth is incredibly hard to get off of, and, unfortunately, we are seeing more and more of it,” Coker said.

&#8220It's an epidemic. We see young kids, girls who are trying to lose weight. They don't realize they lose everything.”