DA talks to Lions about battle against meth

Published 5:44 pm Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Drugs are a continued menace to the community, and “meth is just about the worst thing that can happen to a place.”

So says John Andrews, district attorney for the Second Circuit (Butler, Crenshaw and Lowndes counties). Andrews filled in members and guests of the Greenville Lions Club Monday on the ongoing battle against drugs and the expansion of the “ZERO METH” campaign launched by Governor Bob Riley and the Alabama District Attorneys Association.

“You’ve seen these shirts,” Andrews said as he held up a black T-shirt emblazoned with the ZERO METH graphic.

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Alabama’s anti-meth campaign message has also been seen in graphic television commercials and billboards. Now a new 20-minute video entitled “The Harsh Realities of Meth” will be shared in high schools and at civic clubs across the state. The idea is to graphically show the harmful effects of meth use to the video/internet generation.

“This is an excellent video. You have interviews with inmates who ended up in prison because of meth; a doctor who discusses the awful physical changes meth use causes, and before-and-after photos of meth users,” Andrews said.

He said anti-drug campaigns against cocaine and marijuana have also been launched.

Andrews also discussed how Drug Court is helping keep drug users in his circuit out of the penitentiary and serving as productive members of society.

“If the crimes committed are not ones of violence, here is what happens: one mandatory year in Drug Court, during which he or she must complete a GED if they aren’t a high school graduate; they must obtain a job and get a driver’s license and put in 100 hours of community service,” Andrews said.

“They also must be prepared to give a urine sample at short notice.”

If the person fails the drug test, they must spend one week in jail, Andrews said.

A second failure means two weeks in jail.

A third failure leads to a month in jail, and with four strikes, the individual must spend 18 months in prison.

Andrews said the Community Corrections Program also gives people the opportunity to stay out of jail through restitution and community service hours.

“You have people paying off fines, court costs and out working and contributing to the community rather than being a burden to taxpayers,” Andrews said.

The DA also discussed a new program has just been launched in Lowndes County: the Helping Families Initiative (HFI).

“We have many gangs in Lowndes County; not the Crips or Bloods or any of the really big ones, but they are there and they will tell you, ‘Don’t come into our community,’” Andrews said.

“These gangs control the drug market in Lowndes County. These are kids, mostly 15-19, killing each other with no conscience.”

The HFI will help keep teens off the street and in the classroom, Andrews said.

“We will have someone specifically assigned to go into the homes to find out why these kids are not in school and we will utilize all resources we have to deal with any social, physical or emotional needs that may be blocking that child from attending school,” he explained.

When all those resources have been exhausted and the child is still not in school, “then the parents will be going to jail.”

Getting an education is paramount in helping keep young people off the streets and out of trouble, Andrews said.

“We are going to start this in Lowndes, but we eventually want to extend the program into Crenshaw and Butler counties as well,” the district attorney said.

He also said campaigns against popular drugs other than meth, including cocaine and marijuana, were also underway.