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Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 11:48am

Deal Wants To Expand Drug Courts

Governor Nathan Deal is pushing alternative sentencing programs as a way of reducing the prison population.

It's all about the cash-strapped state budget.

Deal wants more drug courts as a way to keep non-violent offenders out of jail, reducing the need to lock them up.

Coastal Glynn County started up a drug court about twelve years ago.

Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams says, there are start-up costs and finding money to keep offenders in what she calls "excellent" rehab programs is a constant struggle.

"You need to see that there is an incentive for judges to take on the responsibility of doing this from a standpoint of seeing that if you start a program you know that the state's going to help you get the money to fund it," Williams says. "I have a problem with having a program that can't provide services to those people who need them because the option then is ultimately ending up in a prison space. So far, we've been able to manage it."

Williams says, rehab costs her court about $350 dollars a month per person, still much cheaper than prison.

She points to national studies that conclude such programs pay for themselves seven-to-one.

Governor Deal called for more alternative programs for non-violent drug offenders in his State of the State address.

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