News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2007


It's time for action on drug court

Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb's crusade for a drug court in every county shows that she intends for judges to use alternative sentencing. In doing so it would lower the state prison population and save millions of tax dollars.

The days of sentencing so many drug addicts to prison may be nearing an end in Morgan as well as other counties that don't have drug court.

But movement in that direction appears slow in Morgan County. More than once, Circuit Judge Steve Haddock has made money an issue in news stories. Also, he said, drug court is labor intensive. He's right. It will take more work on his part as well as from other officials.

Judge Haddock plays a major role in making decisions about a drug court because he's vice chairman of the board that governs Morgan Community Corrections. Hopefully he will be understanding and cooperative with the efforts of the chief justice.

No one wants every person charged with a drug crime to go free every time. That's for Judge Haddock and other judges to decide. But, like retired Jefferson County District Judge Pete Johnson said, judges must realize that a relapse of some drug-court participants is a given.

Judge Johnson has had great success, graduating more than 2,400 participants in Jefferson County.

Both Judge Johnson and Chief Justice Cobb said they favor "fixing" people with drug addictions rather than assigning them a prison number.

Judge Johnson heads a statewide task force that Chief Justice Cobb implemented to establish drug courts throughout the state. Maybe he can come here and show Morgan officials how to get it started.

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