Prison time is the only option for drug offenders for now, but once the new drug court is up and running, offenders will have another option that will expunge their record once they graduate from the program.
According to the Arkansas Judiciary Web site, http://courts.state.ar.us/drugcourt/inde..., "Drug court programs are an interdisciplinary, non-adversarial judicial process for diverting an offender (or alleged offender) who has a demonstrated dependence on alcohol or an illicit drug, into a strenuous treatment program that includes frequent drug testing, required employment, treatment and counseling and regular court appearances to monitor program compliance. Drug courts are typically staffed by a team consisting of the judge and court staff, a prosecutor, a public defender or private attorney representing the offender, a probation or parole officer and drug counselor. Treatment services are provided through community providers. Most treatment programs last an average of 18 months."
Another added advantage to the drug court program, according to the Web site, is that it is cost effective along with other positive effects. "Although data in Arkansas is limited, initial reports indicate that drug court programs are cost effective and do save the state in incarceration costs. It costs approximately $4.50 per day for an offender participating in a drug court program. By contrast, the average cost per day for incarceration in Arkansas is $45. The treatment program in drug court averages 18 months while the length of incarceration is frequently much longer," according to the Web site. "In addition, many participants perform public service in their communities while maintaining employment during the treatment program, thus avoiding additional welfare costs and foster care expenditures by the state in support of their families. The final savings is realized in the improved health of the participant once they have successfully transitioned from drug or alcohol dependency to a healthier lifestyle."
Common qualifications for entering a drug court program are that a person must be referred by the Judicial District Circuit Court, be a resident of the county the drug court is in, be 18 years of age or older, have had recent or active drug or alcohol abuse, have a drug or alcohol related or motivated felony, no active mental health concerns, may be a probation violator, have no other pending charges, no sex related crimes, no past history of violent felony crimes, live or agree to live in a drug free environment, have dependable transportation to attend all drug court related appointments and counseling sessions, must enter a guilty plea to the current charge and under the totality of the circumstances, the offender must be approved by the Prosecuting Attorney's Office and the Drug Court Judge with the input of the Drug Court Team.
The new drug court will be inside the old Corner Drug Store in Melbourne and meetings will take place periodically once the building is renovated to house drug court offices and other offices that are currently inside the Izard County Courthouse.