14 graduate from Drug Court
by David Atchison
PELL CITY — The St. Clair County Drug Court had its largest graduation class yet Thursday, with 14 completing the program.

“We had seven from the southern division and seven from the northern division,” St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Seay said.

He said a total of 86 people have graduated from drug court since the St. Clair County court system started it in June 2007.

“We started drug court with a $200,000 grant, and we currently have more than that in the drug court account,” Seay said. “This program has paid for itself.”

Assistant District Attorney Carol Boone said drug court has track two defendants, who are facing prison time, and track one defendant who are facing their first felony offense.

If a track two defendant completes drug court, they avoid prison, while cases against track one defendants are dismissed.

“All 14 graduates were track one, so all 14 had their cases dismissed,” Boone said.

She said individuals in drug court go through extensive counseling and drug rehabilitation. They are also required to frequently appear in court, take random drug screening tests and perform 50 hours of community service.

Seay said defendants must pay all court costs, fines and any restitution.

He said 11 of the 14 recent graduates have high paying jobs and are contributing to society.

“They work and pay taxes instead of it costing the tax payers $10,000-$20,000 a year to keep them in prison,” he said. “They aren’t taking up jail space.”

He said defendants’ families are also much better off as a result of the drug court program.

Boone said on the average it takes an individual about 18 months to complete the drug court program, but someone can finish as quickly as 12 months. Because of setbacks, it has taken some people three years to complete the program.

However, if a participant is re-arrested, they go to jail or prison, no questions asked.

“We had many more to graduate than we had to terminate from the program,” Boone said. “I think it’s a good program.”

Seay said everyone benefits when someone graduates from drug court.

“It’s really an all-around win, win for everyone,” Seay said.

Contact David Atchison at datchison@dailyhome.com.

© 2013