Perhaps most interesting was this quote from Angelina County District Judge Paul White. (Lufkin is the largest town and county seat of Angelina County in East Texas.) Ann transcribed parts of his testimony from a House Corrections Committee hearing last month:
“It troubles me greatly ... the Piney Woods [is] the Meth Capitol of this great state. And that is the truth. I’m dealing with it. . . . Four months ago we began our drug court after great research. . . . I firmly believe that we will be able to avoid at least 40 offenders going to the penitentiary every year. That’s a minimum, out of Angelina County. If you want to put a pencil to this or do the math on it . . . . For our community, we show a net savings of $500,000.00 if we are successful with those 40 offenders. . . . If we could get the resources for all 450 Districts in Texas, look at the savings! Half a million dollars just for forty - look at your savings. . . . What I’m here to tell you is that this works in count"ies, not just of over 550,000. It works in Lufkin, Angelina County. . . . It’s changing lives.".There's a judge using his noggin; I'll take nine more like him to replace these guys, please. White goes on to describe the accountability measures that make his drug court more successful than prior judicial efforts in Angelina County. Since I've written quite a bit supporting drug courts, I thought I'd post a few more excerpts to give readers an idea of what they do that's different from more routine jurisprudence:
For more background on drug courts see Doc Berman's fine post on the topic from November.“We have a high degree of accountability. Number one - drug tests - they are tested weekly and if they fail the test we have immediate consequence. In my court, generally it’s a weekend in jail. To be in drug court and remain in drug court you must be employed, and so we monitor that. We have great assistance from our Workforce Commission about workshops and the like. If you are not employed by a certain deadline then you are going to be employed doing community service. It doesn’t take long to figure out you’d rather be being paid for that rather than doing it for free. Now the exception to employment would be if we have those young ones who need to be doing work on their adult education and GED or high school education as the case may be. Generally we have both.
"We mandate who they live with and where they live. I had a gentleman who first reported and neglected to tell me he was living with his wife, which seemed a bit strange when I discovered it. It turned out that she was an absconder and warrants were out for her. So he had to make a choice: move, she turn herself in, or be out of the program. She turned herself in. We’ve had an impact for good with the family.
"We deal with health issues. If your excuse for not working is a health issue, we deal with that. And then we get back to the employment. So those are all of the components. There are at least eight of them that we deal with every week to monitor. And amazingly, the attention they get, they respond to it favorably – even when its a sanction. They understand its coming and they have dealt with it appropriately thus far."