While sentencing reform a subject of national debate, Alabama courts continue to evolve
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Over the years, Madison County’s alternative court system has evolved and expanded. However, drug court, established in 2001, remains a core component.
District Court Judge Claude Hundley has overseen the program since his appointment to the bench in 2011. Looking out over a group of 14 drug court graduates Monday, he said, “all these people here are people who are not going to prison, people we are not feeding, people we’re not having to constantly deal with in society.”
While sentencing reform continues to be a subject of debate in Congress, many states – including Alabama – are continuing to move forward with alternative sentencing programs. In addition to the obvious financial incentives associated with housing fewer prisoners, Judge Hundley says there are also broader benefits. Referring to drug court, he says, “when you really get it done right, you’re helping families, the court system, the community.”
To be eligible for drug court in Madison County, the offender’s defense attorney must first submit the request. If the Office of the District Attorney agrees, the application is sent to the judge for final approval. Only non-violent drug addicts are admitted. Drug dealers and occasional drug users are not eligible. The ultimate goal is to help people deal with their addiction before it leads to further criminal activity.
Drug court is composed of three phases. It’s possible to complete the program in 18 months, although most participants take longer to graduate. The program consists of treatment, regular court visits and drug testing. Participants must also pay any court fees before graduation. Those who do complete drug court have their cases dropped.