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Drug Court Funding Cuts

July first saw a huge cut in funding for state drug courts. There are fifty in the state and the cuts vary, with some courts to lose all state funding. Not all drug courts rely solely on state funds to operate, but state money is essential for some to keep their doors open.

The drug courts have been praised as offering a money-saving solution for some of Mississippi’s drug enforcement. By shifting low-level offenders who are addicted to drugs into treatment, instead of putting them in jail, the price of incarcerating them is saved. When treatment and provisional release costs less than jail, the state saves money overall.

According to reporting from WLOX, the state didn’t cut the funding so much as ignored renewing funding, but the effects are the same. Programs will either have to shut down or drastically reduce the number of participants.

In a parallel with the gridlock in the US Congress, Mississippi legislators aren’t addressing all the funding issue before them. Since state funding for drug courts requires passing legislation, a failure to act is the same as denying the money outright.

Judge Margaret Alfonso, quoted by WLOX, said, "Up until late yesterday afternoon we thought we were going to have to shut down the entire program which means not only do the children lose the services but I would lose four employees. We found out late yesterday that some funding has been found has been located at the state level. It is still going to result in substantial personnel and service cutbacks. We hope to be able to keep the program open at some level."

Judge Alfonso serves in Harrison County.

It’s hard to justify cuts to programs that save the state money at a time when fiscal responsibility is a major concern of our legislators. A failure to act timely may have done just that, unless the unintended consequences can be remedied.

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