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County helps keep drug court working
Jay Stewart 2
Judge Jay Stewart - photo by Courier file photo
Requirements for graduation

In order to graduate from the program, participants must have successfully completed all phases of treatment, earned a high school diploma or GED, be gainfully employed, have performed 80 hours of community service, have paid a $1,000 drug court fee, and maintained at least 12 months of continuous sobriety. Participants who graduate will have charges dismissed, preventing felony convictions from being permanently on their records.
Nine months after its inception, Liberty County Drug Court is experiencing a high number of success stories, but low funds, according to its coordinator, Fran Arnsdorff.
Anxious to keep the program running, program coordinators asked the county commission last week to help with funding.
Commissioners, without discussion or opposition, approved the $10,000 request at their monthly meeting.
The funds will go toward the Liberty County Drug Court Treatment Program, which is a two-year rehabilitation program to help minor drug offenders break cycles of addiction and criminal activity. With a mixture of counseling, drug screens and regular court appearances, the program helps them shape a more structured life.
Drug offenders can opt to go through the program instead of being incarcerated as long as they don’t have extensive or violent criminal histories.
When it was still in the planning stages Atlantic Superior Court Judge Jay Stewart, who was responsible for initiating the program, explained that another benefit is that it eases crowding in jails and saves taxpayers money.
“It will save the taxpayers’ dollars because it cost approximately $32,000 a year to keep someone incarcerated,” Stewart said in comparison to the estimated $2,500 a year to put someone through the program. “It’s a win-win situation.”
Arnsdorff said she’s thankful the commissioners decided to keep the program alive because she’s already seen it make a difference in area residents’ lives. “Currently we have 23 active participants and they’re doing very well in the program,” Arnsdorff said. “We’ve already had one or two actually get their driver’s license back and one complete their GED.”
She said with a high number of people wanting to participate in the program, they’re trying to expand it rather than cut it back to fit the budget.
“We’re continuing to take in people,” she said.
Arnsdorff said she’s hopes to avoid relying on county funds for an extended period and is seeking grant money to help bolster the budget.
“We’ve got two federal grants that we’re waiting for,” she said.
She also said that due to the success of the program and others like it neighboring counties in the Atlantic Judicial Court Circuit have made it one goals to have similar programs.
“I commend Judge Stewart for starting that program and I think it’s been very successful,” County Administrator Joey Brown said.

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