Drug court moves non-violent offenders from prisons

Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice William Ray Price Jr. spoke before the House Budget committee Dec. 6, pushing for increased funding to drug courts.
These courts give non-violent drug users in state prisons the opportunity to get off a drug habit and reinstate themselves into society.
Sitting in front of a panel of casually dressed representatives, Price declared that moving more of these inmates from prisons into drug courts would “save a bundle of money.”
“You want to access each individual offender, look at that offenders’ risk of re-offense and needs and treat that offender in the cheapest, most effective way possible,” Price said. “Generally you get a much better result because they are not hanging around a bunch of people who are worse than them.”
He added that the state saves as much as $16,400 per inmate moved from prisons.
Price conceded that some Missouri prisons may need to be closed down to fund the increased role of drug courts.
Legislators were generally supportive of the Price’s plan, but a few voiced concerns and additional ideas.
Columbia Rep. Chris Kelly said he worried over the creation of a new judicial “bureaucracy” being formed to deal with non-violent prisoners. Price dismissed the concern.
St. Charles Rep. Sally Faith said she wanted Price’s plan to be more transparent to the Missouri people, saying it concerned a matter of public safety.
“I can see where it is an opportunity or an option but I would hope in that process or that development that there would certainly be an education piece,” Faith said. “Because, as elected officials, that is what we are going to have questions of from our constituents.”
According to Price, there are 128 drug courts in Missouri and about 3,000 people using this program.
The success rates show many prisoners are successfully taken off drugs and re-assimilated back into society‹for drug courts in the state is “a little more than 50 percent.”
Prisoners must pay a fee to enter into a drug court. They also must get recommendations from prosecuting and defense attorneys and the presiding judge.
Price estimated the increased funding for drug courts would not take effect until the 2012 budget.
“I realize this is a political decision for you all,” Price admitted.
During his State of the Judiciary address in February, Price alluded to a need for a massive overhaul of Missouri’s system for addressing non-violent offenders.
“Perhaps the biggest waste of resources in all of state government is the over-incarceration of nonviolent offenders and our mishandling of drug and alcohol offenders,” Price said in that speech.