2011 Brings Renewed Support for Drug Courts in Georgia
Governor Deal Says Drug Courts a Budget Solution, Calls for Expansion
On January 11, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal gave his inaugural address to state officials and lawmakers after being sworn into office by his son, Hall County Drug Court Judge Jason Deal. Governor Deal wasted little time in addressing crime and its related costs, stressing the need for Drug Courts, DUI Courts and Mental Health Courts as both a social and budget solution:
“For violent and repeat offenders, we will make you pay for your crimes. For other offenders who want to change their lives, we will provide the opportunity to do so with Day Reporting Centers, Drug, DUI and Mental Health Courts and expanded probation and treatment options. As a State, we cannot afford to have so many of our citizens waste their lives because of addictions. It is draining our State Treasury and depleting our workforce…”
Just two days later, the Honorable Jeffrey Bagley, NADCP board member, Drug Court Judge and Chair of the Judicial Council of Georgia Standing Committee on Drug Courts, authored an OpEd in the Atlanta Journal Constitution touting the success of Georgia’s Drug Courts at reducing crime and recidivism and saving money. Judge Bagley made it clear to Georgia legislators that the committee stands ready to work with them on expanding and improving Drug Courts throughout the state.
Drug courts work for many defendants, and they cut costs
By Jeffrey Bagley
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Brookelyn is the mother of four children; the last was delivered while she was in state custody shackled to a hospital bed at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Brookelyn, a drug addict, was already on probation when she was arrested and charged with felony drug possession, which could have resulted in 20 years of incarceration for a probation revocation and another 15 years on the new charge.
Instead, Brookelyn was allowed to enter the Forsyth County Drug Court Program where she completed three years of judicially supervised, intensive treatment, all while being closely monitored and drug-screened throughout.
During this period, Brookelyn came to realize that in order to be a responsible citizen and, more importantly, a responsible parent, she must stay clean and sober and stop trying to manipulate the system.
Drug courts work. I’ve been presiding over one since 2004. The drug court model calls for intensive judicial supervision over generally first offenders with no history of drug selling or violence as they receive an appropriate array of treatment and services, all while holding them strictly accountable for their behavior.
Drug and other accountability courts offer a chance at reform and redemption. The threat of prison is a strong incentive for participants to succeed.
If the drug court participant fails to follow the court-ordered plan and program, they know that prison is exactly where they will end up.
A recent report by the Georgia Department of Audits revealed that adult felony drug courts in Georgia offer better outcomes; specifically, lower recidivism rates, higher sobriety levels and much lower costs to Georgia taxpayers in that fewer people go to prison, more go on to work and more families remain intact.
I personally know that while drug courts require substantial resources in terms of staff and court time, it is worth that cost to provide an opportunity for certain criminal defendants to turn their lives around and become productive members of society.
Quoting a paper from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation: “Georgia’s criminal justice system is ripe for reform. In Georgia, about one adult in 13 is under some form of correctional control, either on probation or parole, or behind bars. This is the highest rate in the nation. The national average is one in 31. About one adult in 70 is behind bars in Georgia. The state spends more than $1 billion per year on housing approximately 60,000 inmates.”
Drug courts are part of the solution. The members of the Judicial Council Standing Committee on Drug Courts and I look forward to working with Georgia’s legislative and executive branches during this transition period to create more drug courts, improve our standards and collect more information about drug court efficacy.
Judge Jeffrey Bagley is chief judge and Superior Court judge of the Bell-Forsyth Circuit. Bagley recently was appointed as chair of the Judicial Council of Georgia Standing Committee on Drug Courts by Chief Justice Carol Hunstein of the Georgia Supreme Court.
Georgia Drug Courts - By the Numbers
68 total Drug Courts:
30 Adult Drug Courts
12 Juvenile Drug Courts
11 Family Drug Courts
14 Designated DWI Courts
1 Veterans Treatment Court