After a three-day conference in Montgomery with Chief Justice Cobb, local lawmakers are working together to find ways to stop overcrowding in our prisons.
“The prison population is almost double the capacity in the state prisons. The biggest concern is without building any new prisons in about 20 years from now we won't have space to house truly violent offenders...The murderers the rapists the robbers and so that's really the overall concern is where we're going to be in ten, 20 years from at the current rate of incarceration,” said Houston/Henry County Judge, Brad Mendheim.
“One way local judges are considering solving that problem, especially in our area, is by starting something called drug court,” said reporter Danielle Eldredge.
“It's a very intensive program of treatment as well as court involvement the people come in front of the judge on almost a weekly basis for the judge to monitor their progress and make sure they're obeying the rules in addition to their treatment program,” said Mendheim.
Mendheim says it's a cost effective way to successfully rehabilitate nonviolent offenders.
“Ideally in drug court because it is a long-term program the person will actually pay the cost of going through the program in monthly or weekly payments. They would be under court supervision so essentially the offender by the end of the program would have paid for their treatment,” said Mendheim.
The program has been tested in other Alabama counties as well as around the country. Mendheim says it's proven to be a successful way to both rehabilitate criminals and reserve jails for those who are violent offenders and pose a direct threat to the community.
Local officials are working together to qualify for a federal grant that would allow them to start the program.
If all goes well drug court will be in session January 1st, 2011.