The success of the drug intervention court program offers a glimpse into the future of Mississippi’s fledgling mental health court system, Chief Justice Michael Randolph told the Joint Legislative Committee on Tuesday.
Mississippi’s felony drug courts have been around for about 20 years themselves, Randolph said, and have had an astounding level of success in rehabilitating people who struggle with addiction without imprisonment. , early trials in mental health courts in five jurisdictions are beginning to yield similar results.
“From the court’s standpoint, we are all in favor,” Randolph said. “We want to see them succeed and they will be expanded. We are trying to understand how they can be expanded as we have done in drug intervention courts. See what works and what doesn’t.Make adjustments and I’m sure you’ll see more usage.”
The Pilot Mental Health Intervention Court now operates outside the Hines County Circuit Court, along with the 1st, 4th, 6th and 14th Circuits, according to Intervention Court Director Pam Holmes.
Intervention courts for drugs, veterans, mental health and more have benefited the state more than $1 billion since they were created by Congress. According to Randolph, it costs the state about $18,500 a year to imprison an individual.
“This is the state government’s most efficient operation. Nothing works like the Court of Intervention,” said Randolph.
For Randolph, it’s not all about money.
“This is about people. That’s it. It’s about people,” Randolph said. “People whose lives have changed as a result of intervening in their lives, quitting drugs, alcohol and other problems, and living productive lives.”
According to data Randolph submitted to the commission, the recidivism rate among Mississippi drug intervention program graduates is only 3 percent, which is significantly lower than the general population.
“The recidivism rate when they go to Parchman is about 35%,” Randolph said.
Even some of the biggest critics of these programs have converted over the years. Judge Harkey has gone from being one of the program’s critics to being one of its most ardent supporters.
“No offense, he called it ‘hug a thug,’ but he took it on, he noticed it, and he became one of the biggest supporters of drug courts,” Wiggins said. I was.
The feeling that intervention programs are too permissive is one often faced by those who support them.
“It’s not about accepting criminals. It’s about giving criminals a chance to thrive in a drug-free environment,” Randolph said.
In Randolph’s eyes, one of the keys to the program’s success was the threat of imprisonment. This creates a great incentive for people to fully agree to a program that spans about four years. In addition to receiving treatment, the registrant must be drug tested twice a week and meet with a judge once a week. Also, you need to hire.
“Out of the 9,000 or so graduates, we see 6,000 to 7,000 have jobs and pay taxes. They have become productive citizens,” Randolph said. “Employers don’t want to be able to use people who are in court-supervised drug courts. If they don’t show up for work, they… go to Parchman. That’s what happens to them.” It is a very good incentive for them to come to work every day.”
Allowing those who commit crimes to remain part of society while receiving treatment and making money for their families and communities is far preferable to the more costly option of imprisonment, Randolph said. He added that as mental health courts grow, more people will be able to see the positive results of their interventions.