The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety recently recognized the Cherokee County DUI/Drug Court for its success in rehabilitating more than 300 habitual impaired drivers. The accountability court was awarded $32,800 to help offset the cost of operating the program.
The recent $32,800 awarded by the GOHS is actually the second monetary grant from the GOHS this year, as the DUI/Drug Court was awarded some $31,000 in January. Executive Director Lynn Epps said the accountability court has received funding from the GOHS for five consecutive years.
Epps said, generally, the GOHS grants funds to law enforcement agencies for a number of projects, but several years ago when the DUI/Drug Courts opened up, the accountability courts were added to the list of possible recipients.
Epps said the $32,800 would be used to pay for the compliance officer, who conducts home visits and employment checks. The funds will also be used to supplement the county’s ability to pay for a program director or coordinator.
The Cherokee County DUI/Drug Court was introduced to the county in 2005 after Chief State Court Judge C.J. Gober Jr. saw a need to rehabilitate habitual impaired drivers. It was developed as a means to educate and provide treatment services to repeat DUI offenders.
“This is not a diversion program; it is a post adjudication program,” Epps said. The accountability court requires a program participant to attend 90 AA meetings in 90 days; attend group counseling two hours a week, each week; adhere to periodic individual counseling; comply with daily call in for random alcohol and/or drug testing; attend court and probation twice a month; and allow the compliance officer to perform home visits.
Program participants are also required to foot the bill, saving taxpayers thousands.
“For every dollar spent on DUI/Drug Courts, the taxpayer will save approximately $2.14 in the criminal justice system,” Epps said. “The Cherokee DUI/Drug Court is funded through fine amounts from the Drug Abuse Treatment and Education Fund, participant fees, private donations and the drug-testing laboratory.”
Recently, the DUI/Drug Court witnessed some 13 participants graduate from the program, upping the total to 321. The program has also been successful in decreasing the amount of alcohol/drug-related fatalities.
“Since the program started, what we are seeing is a decrease in the recidivism rate,” Epps said. “National recidivism rates for persons who have already been charged with more than one DUI range somewhere between 32 and 38 percent. After coming through a program like this nationwide, recidivism rates range between 6 and 12 percent.”
Epps said Cherokee County’s recidivism rate is 6.78 percent.
Epps credited the DUI/Drug Court staff for the program’s success.
“We have had a very strong team from the beginning; everyone on the team is a team player,” she said. “Judge Gober is very much a part of the team, and he listens to everyone. We make decisions by majority vote, not by feeding one person information and then them making a decision based on what they are hearing, which is really a different role for a judge.”