Moultrie Observer

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February 4, 2013

4 defendants enter accountability court

MOULTRIE — In the inaugural sessions of the county’s drug and mental health court four people have been selected to get a shot at substituting a rigorous substance abuse program for possible jail time.

On Jan. 18 Superior Court Judge Frank Horkan sentenced the first defendants in Substance Abuse Mental Health Treatment Court, Clarence Allen Chafin, 43, and Tammy Lynn Carter, 50.

On Friday he sentenced another two defendants, Dustin Paul Jones, 33, and Jameson Michael Strickland. Along with Chafin and Carter they were evaluated by a team made up of court officials, law enforcement and mental health officials.

The tough conditions of the court are said to be tougher than traditional probation and their progress will be reviewed every two weeks by the team. The committee can impose sanctions if a defendant strays from the rules of the program.

“It’s not designed to be an easy program,” Horkan said during a telephone interview. “They’re going to find it demanding. The team is there to help them meet all the obligations and meet the goals and mandates in each phase and ultimately graduate successfully.”

Those who have the probation revoked can be sent to prison to serve the balance of their sentences.

Among the requirements are a minimum of 18 months in the program, submitting to drug testing as directed by the court and law enforcement, evaluation and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, attending 12-step meetings, attaining a diploma or successfully completing GED requirements, a 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew and no use of alcohol or drugs other than those prescribed by a health professional.

These come on top of the normal terms of conditions that include fines, community service and reimbursement of the county for the expense of public defense services.

Both Carter and Chafin were ordered to, at least initially, stay in a residential treatment facility.

Turning Point in Moultrie has agreed to provide some short-term residential treatment at no cost or on a sliding scale for those in the program who cannot afford it, which will help stretch grant dollars, Horkan said.

Last year the county received a $136,085 grant to run the program through June, at which time the goal is to have another grant in place to continue.

The court is required to provide data on a regular basis, Horkan said, and that information will be part of the information used in determining the receipt of additional grant funds.

“I’m optimistic about it,” he said of the court’s potential. “I have talked with individuals, judges, DAs and others in various areas of the state that are or have been involved with courts of this nature. Every one of them, as I recall, has been very positive about them.”

For those who complete the program successfully, it will mean lives turned around, he said.

“I don’t expect every individual to be successful. If you have a 50 percent success rate, that’s five of 10 you’ve gotten off drugs. I think we’re going to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals.”

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