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County to start drug court

A recently awarded $50,000 grant will allow a pilot “drug court” program to start next spring, and the search is now under way to hire a program supervisor, Covington County District Attorney Greg Gambril said Friday.

The funds will serve as start up money for the project and were awarded by the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts.

“Though these funds are only a small portion of what we really need, they should be enough for us to begin a pilot program late in spring 2009,” Gambril said. “After our application for a very competitive federal grant was turned down, these funds are like an early Christmas gift.”

Drug courts allow charges to be set aside for defendants who agree to undergo an intense therapy and drug-monitoring program, according to the Alabama Sentencing Commission’s Web site. Gambril described drug court as an alternative mode of punishment and sentencing for only a certain class of drug offenders.

“Serious drug offenders — traffickers, dealers, manufacturers — will not be eligible,” he said. “Their problem is not so much a drug addiction as a greed addiction. They deserve to go to jail and will continue to do so.”

Gambril said by focusing a drug court on those offenders who will benefit most from the program, he hopes to ensure that the program meets its goals of reducing drug crime, protecting the public, saving taxpayer money and easing prison overcrowding and congested court dockets.

Stacy Brooks of the Andalusia law firm of Jones & Jones was hired last year as a part time Assistant District Attorney to spearhead the Drug Court effort.

Judge Charles A. “Lex” Short will serve as judge for the program, and participants will have to make routine appearances before him to review their status.

Additionally, a monitor or supervision officer will administer numerous random drug tests to each participant and also subject them to random searches and possibly even home visits. The monitor will also meet with each participant on a weekly basis to review his or her case and then report back to the Drug Court Team.

Resumes are currently being accepted for the position. Interested applicants are required to possess a bachelor’s degree in social services, criminal justice, psychology, sociology or in any other mental health related field and must submit their resumes to the district attorney’s office on or before Fri., Jan. 9, 2009, at 5 p.m.