Cullman County’s own District Judge Kim Chaney was elected president of the Alabama Association of Drug Court Professionals at the association’s last conference in Montgomery.
The association aids with the 69 Adult Drug Courts in the state, as well as several other specialty courts.
“The use of drug courts and other specialty courts a an alternative to incarceration has helped hundreds of individuals address their legal problems while saving the State of Alabama millions of general fund dollars,” Chaney said. “I am very proud and honored to have been selected to serve this association and will continue to work to help all the specialty courts be as effective as possible.”
The district judge’s responsibilities as president of the association revolve around training, facilitating grants, promotion and maximizing drug courts, while maintaining the flexibility individual courts have.
Chaney — well aware of the needs of a small county — added that one of his goals was to ensure that every county was equipped to succeed.
“We have to make sure resources are available to all counties across the state,” he said. “Small counties have the same problems as other counties.”
One particular statewide problem is an overcrowded prison system.
“Corrections and prisons cost a lot of money,” Chaney said. “It’s a drain on the general fund. Rarely does a program save the state money and also benefit the people it’s for.”
Individuals facing drug charges — usually felony charges with sentences ranging from three to eight years — can enroll in the yearlong program.
Those enrolled in the Cullman County program must attend intensive outpatient meetings four times a week, face random drug screenings seven days a week, hold a job and attend various other meetings as needed.
Individuals who fail to meet these requirements can be penalized with a series of graduate sanctions, which can ultimately result in serving the initial sentence. Any additional drug charges will remove a person from the program.
The program costs $175 per month.
“The individuals who graduate the yearlong program have made many positive changes and regained who they were prior to the time addiction stole their lives,” Chaney said. “Many participants are able to reconnect with family members, and it is my hope that they will continue to do well and be productive members of our community.”
According to Chaney, the graduation rate of the program he oversees in Cullman County is 70 percent.
The program does not admit those who are facing charges involving personal injury to others, or individuals charged for manufacturing for profit.
“This is for people with individual drug problems,” Chaney said. “This is not for people in it for the money.”
Chaney added that those with manufacturing charges were considered however.
“A lot of those charges are against people making drugs for themselves to use,” he said.
Chaney’s drug court is also given the authority to sentence felony charges, an ability usually reserved for higher courts.
After completion of the program, the individuals have their cases dismissed, and they are even eligible to have their arrests expunged.
While Chaney said drug court has faced opposition in the past, he believes it is a viable solution to the problem.
“State prison is not working — it’s broken,” he said. “Judge’s can sentence a person to 15 years in prison, but they have no control over state pardon and parole. It’s just not working.”