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Circuit#039;s Drug Court#039; files for grant

Agencies from all aspects of the judicial system in the Second Judicial Circuit have successfully completed the first year of "Drug Court," without benefit of grants.

"We were looking for a way to help offenders in our courts rehabilitate themselves with regard to drug and alcohol-related offenses, and not become repeat offenders," said Lowndes County District Judge Terri Bozeman, who presides over the "Drug Court."

"It is modeled after similar programs throughout Alabama, although it is unique n the other programs all worked with the benefit of grants, which we did not have," said Bozeman.

Bozeman explained that the program here required the cooperation of several agencies donating their services pro bono, or free of charge.

"Last year, $7,911,369 in federal grant funds were awarded in Alabama," she said. "That money went to Cullman, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Ft. Payne, Birmingham and Montgomery, for their programs."

Bozeman said another unique feature of this particular program is that it is the only one in the state to include an entire Judicial Circuit.

"The other programs were all at the county level, but ours involved the whole circuit, containing Lowndes, Butler and Crenshaw counties," she said.

She then explained how the program worked, and the goals involved.

"Our program is designed to rehabilitate our clients and program participants, to make them productive taxpaying citizens again," she said. "Many of our participants, through their addictions, have become burdens on not only the courts and legal system, but also on social systems.

"Many of them are using welfare and disability benefits, as well as food stamps, and other social services," she said. "They get into a vicious circle, just like a web n this program takes them out of that circle."

"Nationwide, Alabama puts less money into drug rehabilitation that any other state," said Mary Williams, court referral officer for the circuit. "We have no federal funds for such programs as this one."

The program, designed to give offenders a second chance, is a voluntary community corrections program. Its sole purpose is to reduce crime and substance abuse in Butler, Crenshaw and Lowndes counties, thereby improving the quality of life for both those who participate in the program and the community at-large.

The "Second Judicial Drug Court Team" as it is known, consists of six members who regularly participate, and others are called upon on an "as needed" basis.

Bozeman presides over the program, and is assisted by team members John Andrews, district attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit, McGowin Williams, attorney representing the Defense Bar, Mary Williams, court referral officer, Allen Stephenson, circuit clerk and Donna Beasley, rehabilitation counselor at First Step Rehabilitative Services in Red Level, Ala.

"We have strict requirements for this program, which serves as an alternative to the sentencing phase of drug and alcohol-related offenses," said Bozeman. "First, participants must under