The new Henry County Drug Court is one of 33 such courts in the state. These courts are known as accountability courts and are designed to provide select offenders with an alternative to jail or prison time in exchange for an intense period of supervision and accountability, which simultaneously saves the county thousands.
The court is designed for those who are accused of felony drug offenses, those who would otherwise be serving jail time or prison time for their offense. The program is far from easy, however, and although it might be preferable to hard time, it requires some serious effort from the offenders in the program.
Each offender is required to maintain a full time job. If they aren’t working full time, they have to do 20 hours per week in community service. They are also required to participate in 9 hours a week of group counseling and attend narcotics anonymous classes every single day.
Participants meet with their probation officer once per week, submit to random drug tests and unannounced searches by police. Finally, they must check in every Friday with the court to update Superior Court Judge Brian Amero on their progress.
The drug court is made up of a team, not your adversarial forces seen in a trial court. Here, the prosecutor, judge, public defender, counselor, probation officer, the drug test officer, and drug court coordinator, all meet together to discuss participants and their status on the program. “It’s high accountability. Everybody is on the same page. We are right there to deal with whatever issues come up,” says drug court coordinator Daryl Dotschay.
The drug court’s 18 month program costs about $10,220 per person. Alternately, the cost to incarcerate someone for five years is $85,440. These courts operate on funds seized in drug raids and from court fees paid by offenders.
So far, no participants have been found in violation of the program—at least not enough that they were discharged. Here, if you miss a few hours of community service, for instance, you’ll simply be slapped with more for next week. If, however, it’s determined you are not succeeding in the drug court system, you will go to jail for a predetermined sentence.
In Georgia’s 33 drug courts, about 2,800 offenders are currently under supervision. Other accountability courts include mental health courts, DUI courts, and domestic abuse courts, each designed to specifically cater to the needs of the population.
If you are charged with a drug offense or a crime where drugs were involved, you may qualify for participation in a drug court. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and what can be done.