Felony drug court to gain court space in Tupelo

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Tupelo StockBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – As the future of Lee County’s misdemeanor drug court remains in doubt, felony drug court’s presence will soon grow.

In early 2014, First District Circuit Drug Court will have a new courtroom in Tupelo, allowing participants in the seven-county drug program a second location for daily drug testing.

Currently, the only daily drug testing location is in Booneville for the felony drug court program spanning Monroe, Pontotoc, Lee, Itawamba, Union, Prentiss, Alcorn and Tishomingo counties. Tupelo offers drug testing for the program once a week.

Lee County Board of Supervisors approved the additional courtroom space Monday. The new court space will open in late-January or February at 589 Coley Road near the Tupelo Furniture Market, Circuit Drug Court Judge Jim Pounds said.

With 215 participants, Pounds said his program continues to grow, requiring additional space. When operating on Thursday afternoons in Tupelo, the felony drug court creates congestion while other Circuit Court judges hold court in the larger courtroom.

He made the distinction between felony drug court and misdemeanor drug court operated in Lee County Justice Court, which lost all state funding beginning with the current fiscal year and recently received notice of decertification, something Judge Rickey Thompson said should be temporary after filing related paperwork.

Limited funding jeopardizes the misdemeanor court’s ability to function through the end of the year.

“My program is in great shape,” Pounds said.

While state funding for felony-level drug courts were cut 25 percent in the current state budget, Pounds said the remaining funding and $100 monthly fees paid by drug court participants keep the program financially afloat.

In felony drug court, nonviolent individuals with substance abuse problems facing felony offenses enter a five-phase, 36-month program where successful completion can result in expunging the felony crime and not serving prison time.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve designating a new court location for the felony drug court. District 4 supervisor Tommie Lee Ivy opposed the request in protest of the board not granting financial support to the misdemeanor drug court.

“We support drug court, but we’re just not putting any money into it,” said board president Bobby Smith of the 2nd District.

No county funds are required for the new felony court space, Pounds said.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com