While sentencing reform a subject of national debate, Alabama courts continue to evolve

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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.

 

 

5 comments

  • Drug Laws Ruin More Lives Than Drugs

    So occasional drug users are still subject to the full extent of the ineffective laws that do more harm than good. Fan-tastic. Good thing prison is such a great reform system. Go in a non-violent and likely productive member of society that chooses to indulge in recreational drug use, occasionally, and come out a hardened and hateful ex-con with very few options. Yeah, non-justice for the win.

    • Michael

      Amen!

      What these fake-tough “lock em all up” people don’t realize is that the tougher the laws and sentencing, the stronger they’ve made the black markets which increase the supply of drugs on the street.

    • Clarification

      I agree that drug laws ruin more lives than drugs however in this situation, occasional drug users are usually offered diversion programs that still allow for the dismissal of their case in exchange for completion of treatment instead of jail time. Drug court is a long term intensive treatment program designed for the more severe addict that otherwise would get a ridiculous long prison sentence and little to no rehab options otherwise.

  • Juan

    Lock them ALL up in Prison. Drugs Kill. Obey the LAW and there will be No Problem!! Break the law, go to Jail!!

    • Michael

      Those that would sacrifice their freedom for a little security deserve neither liberty or security.

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