The Atlantic Judicial Circuit Felony Drug Court graduated 11 participants in a ceremony Dec. 15 at the Liberty County Justice Center in Hinesville.
According to Drug Court Administrator Glenda Harriman, the graduation represented a “bigger than average” class size. She said the average number of graduates per ceremony is about six.
Harriman said that although drug court is comparable to DUI court in concept, there are distinct differences between the two programs.
“The drug-court program has more requirements on the individual than the DUI-court program,” she said. “The drug-court program is a lot more strenuous.”
According to Harriman, individuals participating in the drug-court program must submit to random drug tests, attend individual counseling sessions as well as group counseling sessions three times per week, appear in court every Monday and maintain employment.
Additionally, participants must obtain a GED if they do not already have a high-school diploma and must also pick an outside support group to attend, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
“We can’t tell them ‘you have to go to Alcoholics Anonymous,’ but that is a program that they do use,” Harriman said.
Harriman also explained what crimes may qualify an individual for the drug-court program. She said that for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit Felony Drug Court program, the crime committed must have been of a felony grade.
“(It) doesn’t necessarily have to be a felony drug charge,” she said. “It actually could be felony theft. But it has to be drug-motivated.”
Harriman said that to qualify for the program, an individual must be addicted to drugs. Candidates are assessed prior to being recommended for the program.
She also said that certain crimes — such as any sex-related or firearms charge — automatically will disqualify individuals from the program.
The drug-court program also takes longer to complete than the DUI court. The drug-court program is 24 months long, versus the 18 month-long DUI court program. However, drug-court participants must remain drug-free for a full year before they may graduate a stipulation that often extends participants’ time in the program well past the 24-month mark.
Harriman said that the drug court holds a graduation ceremony about every four months. The next scheduled graduation ceremony will take place sometime around March or April.
Funding for the court comes from the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Drug Abuse Treatment and Education funds from Liberty, Evans, McIntosh and Bryan counties.