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Morgan gets funds to start drug court treatment program

By M.J. Ellington . (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Morgan County received $50,000 Friday to begin a drug court treatment program for nonviolent offenders who have alcohol or drug problems.

The funds will go toward costs of treatment with a licensed substance-abuse treatment provider.

Morgan County is establishing a community corrections program. A drug court is not in the initial planning, officials said. It could be a couple of years, if not longer, before officials pursue getting a drug court.

Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb announced the awards at a meeting Friday, recognizing Morgan and four other Alabama counties that she said expressed strong interest in drug courts. The other counties are Baldwin, Lee, Shelby and St. Clair.

Touted nationally as a way to make offenders pay for their crimes but also continue working to support their families, similar drug court programs help save public money because the offenders help pay for their care and treatment.

Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen, who grew up in Decatur, urged the state to look for alternative ways to treat nonviolent offenders to reduce costs and save prison space for violent offenders.

In a memo to judges in the counties receiving the awards, Cobb said the combination of continuing work, close court system monitoring and clinical substance abuse treatment helps rehabilitate offenders while holding down prison overcrowding.

Alternative sentencing

The state Sentencing Commission and the Governor's Task Force on Prison Overcrowding both recommended alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders.

Cobb said she worked with Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, Finance Director Jim Main, Allen and Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation Associate Commissioner of Substance Abuse Kent Hunt on the project.

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