Speaking to Meridian Rotarians Wednesday, Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph urged Mississippians to support drug intervention courts as an alternative to prison.
“Intervention courts is the most exciting concept in the state of Mississippi,” he said.
Drug intervention courts benefit the community, Randolph said. They save the taxpayers from having to pay the cost to incarcerate someone, they keep people in the workforce and they provide accountability for addicted persons.
“When we send a druggie to Parchman, it’s $18,000 a year. That is what it costs to maintain a person,” he said. “In drug courts, we spend about $1,200 a person per year.”
Randolph said a big difference for the $16,800 cost difference is the person has to pay to be a part of the drug court.
In addition to a participation fee, individuals are also required to pay for twice weekly drug testing and meet with a judge weekly to address any issues.
“They've got skin in the game,” he said. “They’ve got to pay money in order for this program to work.”
Drug courts also require participants hold a job while going through the program, abstain from using drugs and meet the goals of the program. The accountability and recovery the program facilitates help restore the person and save the state money, Randolph said.
“Since 2012, 10 year and three months, intervention courts have saved this state $576 million,” he said.
But, Randolph said, there is room for more growth. There is a need in Mississippi, he said, for veterans courts, mental health courts and additional drug intervention courts.
To meet that need, the court system needs the legislature to appropriate the funding.
“The amount of money budgeted to the courts of Mississippi is six tenths of one percent of the total budget in the state of Mississippi,” he said.
Adding eight veterans courts, eight mental health courts and three more drug courts, Randolph said, would cost an additional $2 million.
He urged residents to talk with their legislators about Mississippi’s intervention courts and encourage them to support funding additional programs to keep residents out of prison.