Lumberton opens drug rehab court

A new court operating in Lumberton may help keep some drug offenders out of prison and on the right track to a better lifestyle.

The state-certified court will help rehabilitate drug offenders when they otherwise may have been sent to prison.

"They have to be reccommended by the district attorney's office working with law enforcement," said Frankie Glennis, Drug Court Coordinator. "When they have their charges, they meet with us, and we go through a screening process to make sure they're eligible. We only take non-voilent offenders. They can have previous convictions, but non-violent offenders only."

The first phase of the program is treatment. This portion lasts about a month, and then people sentenced to the court must meet with a judge on a weekly basis and later on a monthly basis. The last segment of the program is after-care, in which the participants check in with the court itself. The entire process lasts a minimum of three years.

"It's not just a hug a thug, and its not just soft on crime," said District 15 Circuit Court Judge Prentiss Harrell. "It is hard for people to complete. It is a regimented, continuous lifestyle that we're trying to treat in these people, and it's been successful in other jurisdictions."

This drug court is one of two dozen throughout the state. Lumberton was chosen because of its close proximity to the five counties it serves - Lamar, Marion, Jeff Davis, Lawrence and Pearl River Counties.

Drug courts throughout the state are funded by a bill signed by Gov. Barbour in 2004 that increased fines on misdemeanors and felonies by $20. Of that, $10 is given to drug courts.

Each person sent to prison on drug charges it costs taxpayers approximately $18,000 a year.