Drug courts offer second chance for offenders - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Drug courts offer second chance for offenders

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
LEAKE COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) - Lock 'em up or throw 'em a lifeline.That's the question judges face for drug offenders.There's a high success rate with drug courts. The state now has an Office of Drug Court Compliance to make sure the more than 40 courts are operating effectively.The best way to explain the impact is through personal stories of the participants.

"I went to selling a little," admitted Lisa Hamm. "Helping make some. I had two brushes with death because of it and it still didn't stop me."

"Before it ended I was an everyday IV meth user," said participant Kelly Cockerham.

That's all past tense now. There's added layers of responsibility and accountability with drug court. Participants are tested as frequently as twice a week without notice. They have to get a job and attend weekly meetings and follow-ups. Lisa Smith has come full circle.

"I was definitely on a downhill spiral," explained Smith. "Road to destruction. Didn't see any way out. I didn't really want a way out. To me, I was fine. Everybody else was messed up. Not me."

Since graduating drug court, she's gone to nursing school and gotten her RN license.

"I probably would not be alive today without drug court," Smith described.

That's echoed by Lisa Hamm. She'll graduate the five year program in December.

"They said we're not going to see you thrown away," said Hamm.

She admits the same old crowd tries to pull her back in. But the drug court she was once skeptical of, has given her the courage to say no.

"There's more to life than having chills and freezing up every time you see a cop car," Hamm explained.

The motivation comes in many forms. For Justin Payton, it's family.

"Right before I entered into drug court, I found out I had a five year old son," Payton said. "So, actually now I'm living my life to better my son's life."

Now they believe they can stay clean and have the support system to do it.

"The expansion of drug courts is going to have a tremendous positive impact on the state of Mississippi," said 8th Judicial District Drug Court Coordinator Marcus Ellis. "By reducing first of all, recidivism. Secondly, by reducing crime. And third, by reducing the size and the impact of the MDOC on our society."

The state has also named veteran law enforcement officer William Saul of Crystal Springs as the leader of the Office of Drug Court Compliance.

The cost saving element is another factor. It costs a lot to lock folks up. But just one drug court can save the state more than $15.5 million a year.

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