Rhea, Bledsoe & Sequatchie Counties Get Drug Courts

Reported by: Bill Mitchell

Edited by: Ashley Henderson
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Updated: 12/23/2013 7:16 pm
CHATTANOOGA, TN. (WDEF-TV) -- Putting all drug offenders in jail automatically is becoming a a thing of the past.
Jails are over-crowded, and so are court dockets----so some judges think they've found a better way to deal with the drug crisis.
Rhea county is the latest to approve the "Drug Court."

People convicted of minor drug offenses in Rhea county will not being spending much time in the packed jail from now on.
Under a program being pushed by Franklin county Judge Buddy Perry of the 12th Judicial District, they can go to drug court.

GEORGE THACKER, RHEA COUNTY EXECUTIVE "He showed us different people who had been through the system, And had been not...and had changed their ways...and now they are working."

Judge Perry had already put the Drug Court in Grundy and Marion counties, and now Rhea, Sequatchie and Bledsoe are on-board.
Rhea County leaders passed a resolution paving the way last Tuesday.
Those selling drugs or making meth can forget it.

GEORGE THACKER "He said it would be more towards pills and marijuana...not towards meth and things like that.

The cost is paid by the offenders.
And in fact, the program will also save time and money now being spent on jails and keeping court records.

JAMIE HOLLOWAY, CIRCUIT COURT CLERK "I believe the main difference it'll make is getting these people treatment, for their drug problem. They just go to jail and don't get any treatment they tend to get out and re-offend..probably 60-70% of ours are re-offenders."

It costs counties 52-dollars a day to keep someone incarcerated.
The Rhea jail was built to hold 92, and it usually has about 170 inmates.
Sheriff Mike Neal is using an ankle bracelet system.

DEPUTY JEFF KNIGHT, RHEA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT "So far we have 19 offenders who participate in this program , 20 as of today. And as of last week, with those few offenders,we have saved the county 33-thousand dollars this year."

County authorities are hoping for success on several fronts with the new Drug Court.

About 90 people have successfully completed the drug court in Hamilton county.
It's run by Judge Rebecca Stern, who started it in 2006.

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