Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Drug Addicts Face Jail or Therapy Judge Eliminates Probation as Option

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Drug Addicts Face Jail or Therapy Judge Eliminates Probation as Option

Article excerpt

BRUNSWICK -- Glynn and Camden County addicts who land in court

for drug crimes will get an alternative to jail beginning Nov.

3, while at the same time relinquishing the possibility of

probation.

Formerly, drug offenders had a chance for probation, but

Superior Court Judge Amanda F. Williams said she will offer two

alternatives in the drug court she opens in a month: a two-year,

court-supervised treatment program or a year in jail.

"Nobody gets a probated sentence in a substance abuse case,"

Williams said. "No addict is going to be on the street unless

they're in a treatment program."

Courts that deal solely with drug offenders aren't new. There

are many scattered around the country, in New York, Florida and

elsewhere, but the one Williams will conduct in Camden and Glynn

counties is Georgia's second after Bibb County's.

Those who choose treatment rather than prison will enter a

rigorous program, especially during its first three months.

The offender must first plead guilty, agree to a two

year-sentence, then undergo the following each week:

Three or more court appearances.

Four two-hour drug counseling sessions.

Two Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Three

to four drug screenings.

Meetings with a case manager.

The court appearances will actually be status report hearings

and the participants will be asked about their treatment, jobs

and families, Williams said.

Those who complete that schedule will see it shift away from

drug screenings and court appearances toward more frequent

Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings. If the

offender completes the two-year program, Williams will dismiss

the drug charges.

Those who fail face a year in a probation detention center

rather than a state prison, she said.

Unlike inmates in state prisons, whose sentences are shortened

by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, those Williams

sentences to probation detention can expect to serve the full

year.

"I'm the only one who can let them out," she said.

And when they complete their sentences, the offenders will

still have four years probation to serve and will be required to

enter a drug or alcohol rehab program, she said.

A single bad drug screening will not disqualify anyone, but

those who try to manipulate the system with repeated promises

and excuses, for which addicts are famous, can expect to go to

jail, she said.

The program won't be open to everyone. The District Attorney's

Office will decide. And no big-time dealers or violent offenders

will be eligible.

Those in the program must pay $1,000 each year.

The actual cost varies, depending on a participant's success,

between $1,500 and $3,000 per year. …

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