By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Officials high on drug court
Placeholder Image
Liberty County will be getting a drug court, if the 100 or so community leaders assembled at Jekyll Island this weekend have anything to say about it.
One of the facilitators at the annual planning workshop labeled the idea of a special court to handle drug-using offenders a "no-brainer" because of the apparently unanimous support it received.
While specifics - like funding - have not been worked out, Liberty County's future seems clearly to hold a program of specially trained judges, intense offender supervision, employment, rehabilitation, community service, random drug screens and similar measures.
A slick promotional handout distributed to each workshop participant, along with a letter from Atlantic District Superior Court Judge Jay Stewart, quotes Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears: "If you don't like having to spend more money to build more prisons, you'll love drug courts."
Drug courts, Sears said, have the support so many members of the criminal justice system, "because they all know that they work, and they work at a fraction of the cost of incarceration."
Stewart said the local court calendar is crowded with possession and sale of drugs/narcotics cases.  There are many other cases, however, that are drug related that don't have drugs in their names. For example, many burglary offenses occur due to a defendant's need for funds to finance a drug habit.  The same is true for robberies, forgeries and other crimes. 
Statistics reveal that up to 80 percent of child abuse and neglect cases are substance abuse related.  In short, drugs and illegal substances are fueling a significant rise in criminal cases, the judge said. 
Traditional sentencing options, however, have failed to address the disease of addiction. 
As a result, the judge said, many young people begin a cycle of drug use, arrest, incarceration, release to society, drug use, arrest, etc.  Not only has the defendant's addiction not been addressed by traditional means, the costs to taxpayers associated with housing defendants in jails and prison is staggering. 
Drug courts include judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, drug and alcohol treatment professionals and corrections officers who work as a team to break the cycle.
Stewart is requesting local funding for a drug court, and both federal and state assistance will be asked.
There are 47 drug courts in Georgia, including the neighboring communities of Savannah, Brunswick, Waycross and Statesboro. 
Judge Amanda Williams of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit recently confirmed that 95 percent of the participants who successfully completed her drug court program have not been rearrested.
Sign up for our e-newsletters