State Drug Court conference to be held in Tunica

By The Associated Press

TUNICA — Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. will speak Wednesday at the opening of a three-day conference in of the Mississippi Association of Drug Court Professionals.

The conference will run through Friday at Harrah’s Conference Center in Tunica.

Tracy Swafford of Cleveland, president of MADCP and drug court coordinator for the 11th Circuit Drug Court and Circuit Judge Al Smith III of Cleveland also will speak Wednesday.

Mississippi has 44 drug courts. All 22 circuit court districts have drug courts. The state also has 15 juvenile programs, five misdemeanor level programs and two family treatment courts.

Drug courts seek to rehabilitate drug-using offenders through treatment and intense supervision with frequent court appearances and random drug testing. The program offers an incentive of a chance to remain out of jail and be employed if they stay drug-free.

More than 3,000 people are enrolled in drug courts statewide, including adult and juvenile programs.

“The cost savings are significant, but the difference it makes in the lives of the participants and their families is the reason they are successful,” Waller said in a news release.

About 300 people, including judges, drug court staff, law enforcement, correctional officers and drug treatment providers, are expected to attend, said State Drug Court Coordinator Joey Craft.

The conference will include presentations from mental health and drug treatment professionals, judges, court staff and law enforcement. Presentations will cover current drug abuse trends, prescription drugs, DUI’s in drug court, gangs, drug treatment issues for adults and adolescents, addiction and mental illness, ethics, and trauma.

Several presentations will focus on development of drug court programs which recognize and take into account the physical and emotional trauma which many drug court participants have experienced.

Other speakers will include domestic violence survivor Sharon D. Wise of Washington, D.C.; and Joe Madonia, a licensed clinical social worker and co-director of the Brooklyn, N.Y., Treatment Court Training Academy.

Many of the people who land in drug court feel helpless and hopeless, Swafford said. They are depressed, and they have little self-esteem.

“We are dealing with people who think they are not good enough to have a good partner. They just keep taking the abuse,” Swafford said. “They know that they have let down their families. Even the drugs no longer make them feel good.”