PABI focuses on new drug court programNov 29th, 2010 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: news
Until now, there were only two options for drug offenders in Plaquemines Parish, probation or prison. Drug court offers an alternative: treatment.
25th Judicial Judge District A, Kevin Conner, overseer of the drug court program, was the keynote speaker at the Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry luncheon last week. He spoke to the attendees about what drug court is, and how it is essential to the community.
Sending people to prison for drug use – and the minor offenses related to buying drugs, like stealing – is not correcting the problem when the recidivism rate is 50 percent, according to Conner.
And the price of keeping prisons full is expensive, costing taxpayers approximately $80,000 per cell, annually, Conner said.
“The cost of (drug court) is virtually nothing,” said Conner, because the program is largely paid for by a grant from the Supreme Court. The Plaquemines drug court, which commenced last year, received the funding for the first two years from that grant, and Conner informed the PABI membership that the court received another grant to continue an additional two years after that.
Conner receives no extra pay for his involvement with drug court. He said he does it because he wants to.
Drug court participants volunteer for the program as an alternative to serving traditional sentences, are required to adhere to strict regulations for the duration of the program, typically 18-months. They must consent to a minimum of three random drug screenings per week, work at a steady job or do community service, attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and weekly meetings at the courthouse presided over by Judge Conner.
Furthermore, to be accepted to the program, one cannot have any violent crime offenses.
How does it affect business?
Misusing prescription drugs is the fastest growing substance abuse issue in recent years.
Businesses where employees who are not in the drug court system but are regularly drug tested may not be getting accurate results. Many times an employee has a prescription for the drug – for example muscle relaxers, pain relievers, Valium, or Oxycodone – so the test comes back negative. However, they should not be taking those medications while at work, especially if using heavy machinery.
Judge Conner said management should aim to get records of employee prescription histories; if someone has a different doctor filling their prescription every month, chances are there is a substance abuse issue.
For more information about PABI, contact Executive Director Bob Thomas at 504.458.6167.