The Cullman County Drug Program in Alabama is offering drug offenders a second chance at success while bypassing a jail or prison sentence, the Associated Press reports.
The program has taken a new direction under District Judge Chad Floyd, the drug court’s third director since its inception in 2008.
Program participants often “have issues with low self-esteem [and] a background where nobody really taught them to have a sense of self-worth,” Floyd said. His goal is to help participants realize their full potential and “move beyond the choices that got them into my court.”
At a minimum, Floyd requires the participants to commit to one year in the program, including random drug screens and 48 intensive outpatient sessions.
Participants must plead guilty prior to entering the program. The court will then hold the sentence in abeyance (temporary suspension) pending completion of the program.
If the participant fails out of the program, they must complete the prison sentence.
The program is fully funded by the participants, who must pay $175 a month to remain in the program, in addition to completing 52 hours of community service.
Typically, candidates charged with felony possession of a controlled substance qualify for referral. Those with violent felonies, trafficking charges, or other serious crimes are ineligible.
One recent graduate, Brandon Hill, said that the program helped him.
Floyd offered Hill his praise, saying, “I don’t think we’ll ever see him in our system again.”
According to Floyd, the 49% of those who failed the program “are rearrested on drug charges within three years.” Graduates, however, have seen a scant 3% recidivism rate during that same timeframe.
“They’re playing the long game to invest in themselves and better their own lives,” said Floyd.