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Dekalb County Annual Dress for Success Day

Posted on June 20, 2018 at 4:15 PM

Please join Dekalb County's Accountability Courts for the annual Dress for Success Day. 



Congratulations Muscogee County Juvenile Court

Posted on June 12, 2018 at 3:25 PM

Congratulations to Muscogee County Juvenile Court

The Family Drug Court program has been awarded $1.6 million from the

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

To learn more about the award and how the program will enhance and expand services please read the official press release below.



 

Georgia's Drug Courts are in the news!!

Posted on November 29, 2017 at 9:05 AM


The Valdosta Daily Times published an article highligting the positive impact South Georgia's Drug Court Programs have on the area.


http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/news/local_news/drug-courts-offer-treatment-over-prison/article_b2009d5a-36da-58e1-b70e-eca15414e186.html

Treatment Courts.Org

Posted on October 6, 2017 at 2:45 PM

The Council of Accountability Court Judges would like to annouce the official launch of TreatmentCourts.org.

The news is shared from a press release issued by Aaron Arnold, Director of Treatment Court Programs and Tribal Justice Exchange at The Center for Court Innovation. 

Read about the great news below:

The Center for Court Innovation has officially launched www.TreatmentCourts.org, a new and improved online learning system for drug courts and other treatment courts.


The new website offers dozens of lessons presented by experts in the field, virtual site visits to exemplary courts, interviews with treatment court practitioners, and a resource library. It is completely free to use.


Simply create a username and password. That's all it takes! A preview video that demonstrates the website is available here: https://courtinnovation.box.com/s/eckrig9pt5ciz9scewmb8f80mzfpx855


The Center for Court Innovation will continue to expand the training offerings on the website.


According to Director, Aaron Arnold the Center for Court Innovation already has new adult drug court lessons in the works, and will be building up the content for juvenile drug courts, veterans treatment courts, and Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts in partnership with the NADCP, American University, and the Tribal Law and Policy Institute.


The Center for Court Innovation welcomes your suggestions for new training content as well as feedback on the website design.


Congratulations Accountability Court Graduates

Posted on September 28, 2017 at 2:05 PM

The Council of Accountability Court Judges would like to congratulate all Accountability Court

graduates during the month of August.


What a proud day! We just couldn’t be happier for you!”


August and September 2017 Accountability Court graduations included:

• Western Judicial Circuit Veterans Treatment Court

• Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Court

• Newton County Resource Court

• Hall County Family Treatment Court

• Athens-Clarke County Family Treatment Court

• Cobb County Family Treatment Court

• Dekalb County Mental Health Court

• South Enotah Family Drug Court

• Gwinnett County Drug Court

• Muscogee County Drug Court

• Hall County D.U.I Court

• Western Judicial Circuit Felony Drug Court

• Alapaha Circuit Accountability Court


“You’ll always remember this day and so will all of us who were here cheering you on. Best of luck to you always!”

 

Reentry Partnership Housing Program

Posted on September 27, 2017 at 4:10 PM

Reentry Partnership Housing Program:

A Collaboration of State Agencies to Provide Housing for Returning Citizens

 

The State of Georgia is experiencing an expensive and continuing problem finding appropriate housing options for certain offenders experiencing homelessness as well as finding housing for participants in accountability courts. The Council of Accountability Court Judges (CACJ) has partnered with the Department of Community Supervision (DCS), the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), and the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) to support the Reentry Partnership Housing (RPH) program in an effort to enable certain offenders' participation in accountability courts when housing is an issue.


An eligible person is an active participant in the following accountability courts:

• Felony drug

• Mental health

• Veterans

• Family Treatment Court

Active participants might currently live in an emergency shelter, transitional housing for homeless persons, or a hotel or motel with the stay being paid for by an organization; lives in a car, park, abandoned building, encampment, dilapidated building, on the sidewalk, or similar location; is facing loss of housing within two weeks, has no subsequent residence identified, and lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing; is in jail, a hospital, or a detox program, but would otherwise have been homeless.


Court staff will identify the participant’s need for housing through the local court program eligibility screening process; during program orientation; or at any other relevant time period during program participation.


First, each participant must complete with court staff a Reentry Partnership Housing Financial Assessment. Participants are considered to be eligible for housing assistance if presumed to have a significant financial hardship. The RPH Assessment is in accordance with O.C.G.A § 42-8-102(e)(3).

A participant has a significant financial hardship if he or she:

• Has a developmental disability;

• Is totally and permanently disabled;

• Is indigent;

• Has been released from confinement with the preceding 12 months and was incarcerated for more than 30 days before his or her release.

• Has income that falls under the Department of Health and Human Services 2017 Poverty Guidelines

Accountability Court participants eligible for placement in the program will exclude:

• offenders with registrable sex offenses

• offenders with a primary mental health diagnosis that is at a level IV or higher according to GA Dept. of Corrections criteria.


Once the court program has determined an offender is eligible for program participation. Monthly assistance will be determined by the offender’s tier placement. The current participant monthly assistance scale determinations are:

• Up to six (6) months for each Offender who is a participant of a Felony Drug Court or Family Treatment Drug Court.

• Up to six (6) months for each Offender who is a participant of a Mental Health Court.

• Up to six (6) months for each Offender who is a participant of a Veterans Treatment Court.

• Up to six (6) months for each Offender who is a participant of a Veterans Court and due to the Offender’s mental health diagnosis, is placed in a personal care home or nursing home, or other appropriate facility.


If you are interested in participation or have additional questions about the Reentry Partnership Housing Program: Contact the Council of Accountability Court Judges (CACJ) at http/www.gaaccountabilitycourts.org/contact-us for assistance.

Do you know of a facility that is interested in becoming an RPH Housing Provider? Visit the Department of Community Supervision (DCS) at https/dcs.georgia.gov/housing-https/dcs.georgia.gov/housing-programs for additional information.

If the facility is ready to submit their RPH Provider Letter of Intent? Please submit all RPH Provider Letters of Intent to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) at rphapplications@dca.ga.gov.

 

Bi-annual Conasauga Drug Court Talent Show

Posted on July 1, 2017 at 12:00 AM

 

‘RECOVERY CAN BE FUN’

Bi-annual Conasauga Drug Court Talent Show allows people recovering from addiction to demonstrate their talents to the community – and themselves

 

By MITCH TALLEY

Whitfield County Director of Communications

 

Life hasn’t always given them a lot of reasons to smile.

But there they were, the participants in the bi-annual Conasauga Drug Court Talent Show, smiling, laughing, clapping, and jumping to their feet.

Drug Court Judge Jim Wilbanks believes the show – held April 14 before a packed house at Whitfield County Administration Building No. 2 - will provide yet another stepping stone in the recovery of the 92 people in the program.

“The goal of the show,” he said, “was to pull these folks further outside of their comfort zones because to successfully get into recovery and stay in recovery, you’ve got to be outside of your comfort zone. Their comfort zone is addiction.”

The show featured a wide range of talents, ranging from soulful singers to accomplished artists, from a board-breaking kung-fu exhibition to craftsmen able to turn wood into beautiful signs and cabinets.

“I don’t see these folks except in court on Thursdays,” Wilbanks said, “and I saw them in a whole new light today. I saw people singing who I didn’t have any idea could sing. I met some artists today. I even got mentioned in a country music song. That is the first time that has ever happened! So it’s amazing. It’s a spiritual event. I mean, God was mentioned several times today, and participants know that spirituality is the foundation of their recovery.”

It is easy for others to try to tear down those in addiction, the judge said, “but that is the last thing in the world that they need. They need to be built up. They need to know that they are loved and that the community cares for them. That is what this program does.”

Indeed, loud applause and enthusiastic cheers rang out through the auditorium after each performance. Just look at some of the photos accompanying this story. You’ll see folks showing an outpouring of honest emotional support for their comrades and family members.

Wilbanks has seen the hard road these folks are traveling.

Many Drug Court participants hit rock bottom in their addiction. “They lost their homes. They lost their jobs. They lost their families. Their parents put them aside. Their brothers and sisters put them aside. Their children were taken away from them. They had absolutely nothing, so they come literally from the ground up,” the judge said. He hopes the talent show gives participants a way to show others, and themselves, that they are still valuable members of society.

“This is just another way to show them – Look, you are somebody. Look, you have talent. Look, you have ability. Look, you can kick the addiction and stay in recovery,” Wilbanks says. “This is all about reinforcing who they are as individuals because a lot of these folks don’t have any self-confidence at all. They’ve been told they’re bad… Trauma is so prevalent among those in addiction. They were sexually abused or physically abused or emotionally abused. Really, addiction is about people self-medicating because their reality is so bad. They do not have the tools to deal with it.”

But the Drug Court program aims to give people in addiction the tools necessary to turn their lives around.

“It’s about supporting Drug Court participants, NOT doing it for them,” Wilbanks emphasized. “I want to make sure everybody understands that. We don’t do anything FOR them, but we will give them the tools and resources to get in recovery and stay in recovery IF they want it.”

While most of a judge’s duties involve reacting to problems in people’s lives such as divorce, lawsuits, and crimes, Wilbanks says he enjoys the proactive nature of Drug Court.

“I’d rather be proactive,” he says. “I’d rather prevent the lawsuit. I’d rather keep families together. I’d rather prevent addiction – that’s what I’m about.”

Drug Court helps reunify families. The Judge – who has been leading Drug Court since January 2016, but has been involved since retired Judge Jack Partain started the program in February 2002 - says it still amazes him to witness mothers whose children were placed in foster homes or with family members who now are regaining custody of their children due to their successful recovery efforts. People work to get apartments, cars, and driver’s licenses. Judge Wilbanks sees Drug Court as a lifelong way to help people get into – and stay – in recovery.

“Once participants leave the program, they know they’re always welcome to come back here,” he said. “Our doors never close to them. We have an alumni program that is very successful. This is all about building the recovery community, and in building the recovery community, we are being a very positive influence on the whole community.”

Addiction affects men and women from every background and socio-economic status. Almost everyone knows someone who is affected by substance abuse and addiction. “Addiction is killing our community. It’s killing our families,” the judge says. “The Drug Court program is about being proactive and helping people get their lives back.”

To support efforts to help people proactively overcome their addiction, Wilbanks says it is important that someone on the Drug Court staff be available 24/7 to counsel participants in the program. All Drug Court participants take part in additional community-based support programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, and local churches. Many participants find their spirituality and build connections to a church family during their recovery journey.

Events like the talent show are an integral part of the recovery process, he says.

“It takes a lot of guts to be in this show,” Wilbanks said. “Before they went up front they were all saying they were scared to death and nervous. It’s just butterflies, and I’m sure they all felt them. They were really outside of their comfort zones. But they did it! They did it, and everybody applauded and supported them and yipped and yelled and said ‘That’s great.””

Now the next time a Drug Court participant is faced with a difficult circumstance, whether it be performing again or walking down the street and seeing somebody from their past who is horrible for them, they’ve been empowered. They are strong enough now to keep walking and not respond to that person who was a negative influence in their life. They can just wave them off and keep walking.

“That,” the judge says, “is what it ultimately is all about.”

 

SIDEBAR

 

JUDGE WILBANKS EXPLAINS HOW DRUG COURT WORKS

 

As Judge Jim Wilbanks stood outside Whitfield County Administrative Building No. 2 on a sunny spring morning last month, talking about the Drug Court program, he paused for a moment to greet one of its participants walking past.

Jose was on his way to his car with a sketch he had just shown in the annual Drug Court Talent Show.

“Jose, that is amazing,” the judge said.

A few seconds later, Wilbanks explained that Jose is beating his addiction and now works at a local restaurant - on his way up the management ladder after starting out as a dishwasher.

“He is well on his way to doing whatever God’s plan is for him,” the judge said.

The same could be said for hundreds of local people who have successfully turned their lives around in the Conasauga Drug Court program started by Judge Jack Partain in 2002 and now led by Wilbanks.

Here, in his own words, Judge Wilbanks explains how Drug Court works:

First, people get charged with a felony. Either the charge is possession of drugs or another felony related to their drug addiction. Many burglary charges in our circuit stem from addiction because people steal things in order to sell them to support their addiction. Those people – either through themselves, their families, or their defense attorney - make a request to join Drug Court through the District Attorney’s office (Susan Beck is our assistant DA who serves with our team).

Each person who requests to join Drug Court must meet certain eligibility criteria in order for the District Attorney’s office to recommend them for entry into the program. Once deemed eligible, candidates go through assessments with treatment staff to evaluate drug dependency and readiness for an intensive out-patient program.

Entry into the Drug Court program is completely voluntary. No one is forced to join. If the team determines that a person is eligible for entry into Drug Court and the person wants to join, that individual will be discussed at one of our weekly Drug Court staffing meetings. This meeting consists of representatives from probation, law enforcement, the District Attorney’s office, Public Defender’s office, Drug Court staff, and myself. Sometimes a detective or probation officer will say, “This is a bad dude. This is somebody who is actually involved in trafficking. He doesn’t just use them, and I don’t think he needs to be in the program.” I listen, and after having a discussion, I make a decision – either this person is not coming into the Drug Court program or this person is coming in. If he is not coming in, the conversation is over. If he comes into the program, he is placed on my docket.

The Conasauga Drug Court is a post-conviction program. That means that part of a participant’s sentence is that they are going to be on probation, and they are going to comply with the Drug Court contract that is a special condition of their probation. If they violate the Drug Court contract, then the balance of their sentence could be revoked and they could go to prison.

Once a person is in the program, we help determine where they are going to live and who they can and cannot have contact with. If they have contact with someone on the “no contact list” and we find out about it, they will be sanctioned. Sometimes a participant will come to me during a Drug Court meeting and say, “Judge, I need to add my sister to the list because I thought she was in recovery but she’s not and I need to stay away from her.” I’ll order her to stay away from her sister. I tell participants that I am happy to be the bad guy. This gives participants an out and a way to walk away from people who are bad influences.

I tell participants that the Drug Court staff will be involved in every aspect of their lives – where they live, who they live with, everything. We have several folks who stay at Providence Ministries because their home is full of people in addiction who are not seeking recovery. You cannot build recovery if somebody is living in a home that has addiction in it. So we get that individual moved into Providence. While they are there, we find them stable, clean, and sober housing. Once a participant moves into proper housing, then we’re off to the races.

The Conasauga Drug Court is a 24-month program. A lot of people are in it for longer than 24 months because of sanctions that set them back. Sometimes they get sent to PDC (Probation Detention Center). Sometimes we send folks who need more intensive residential treatment to Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) programs that are run by the Department of Corrections. RSAT is a nine-month program operated inside of prison where participants are monitored 24/7.

Our Drug Court is an outpatient program. Participants regularly report to the program directors and go home. We do not monitor them 24/7. However, I do have three community-based law enforcement officers and probation officers who check on participants 24/7. Before participants enter the Drug Court program, I tell them “we’re all in your business. If you don’t like that, don’t come in the program. But we’re all in your business.” I mean that!

This program changes lives. A lot of participants have never had any structure in their lives. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to stay straight. Somebody might call them on the phone and say, “Hey, I got a bag – let’s go use.” If they say yes, they are done. I had a participant who had been clean for 10 years! She told me her kids are 9, 11, 14 years old. She got a call from a friend who invited her to do meth. Sometimes people who are in recovery think, “I can handle this. I can do it one time and it’s not going to affect me.” You cannot do that with meth. I hear repeatedly that people can be addicted to meth after one use! This participant used meth for the first time in 10 years and she went off the cliff. Now she has lost her kids, her home, her relationship, and her job. She bottomed out again, and I had her in court yesterday. She’s coming into the Drug Court program.

I often ask participants how long they have been in addiction. They usually respond that they started using alcohol, marijuana, or their parents’ pain pills when they were 12, 13, or 14 years old. Then they tried meth, then somebody offered them some pills, and then they try cocaine or heroin. It’s just … 12, 13, 14 years old. It is astounding.

People can overcome their addiction and live full lives in recovery. The Conasauga Drug Court can help.

 

From Under Arrest to Under The Sea: One Man's Second Chance Through Drug Court

Posted on May 23, 2017 at 11:35 AM

From Under Arrest to Under The Sea: One Man’s Second Chance Through Drug Court

By: Chris Holt

 

The bounty hunter had finally found his man and was posing with his foot on the suspect’s back like he had just captured the criminal of the century. The running was now over for Cory Chastain.

Cory never intended for his life to turn out this way. He dreamed of playing major league baseball and was a good player in his youth. Cory says, “I can remember watching the Atlanta Braves, and my mind could see my future self on third base where Chipper Jones played.” However, he also had a backup plan. Cory was a big fan of the late Steve Irwin, known as The Crocodile Hunter. If his baseball dream did not work out, he decided that he would study biology and work in animal conservation. However, as Cory says,“life changes people.”

Cory was raised by his father and grandparents. For a period of time Cory says they “raised him well,” teaching him about the bible and taking him to church. However, his family also had their own demons, addictions to prescription drugs. The type of day Cory would have depended on his family having their medication. As with most addictions, things worsened, and one day while Cory was playing in an All-Star baseball game, his father passed out on one of the benches. Cory remembers, “it took every drop of energy I had to show my face again,” but he loved baseball and continued to play.

Cory’s mother spent time in prison and was not always around. When she was not incarcerated, she dragged Cory from place to place looking for drugs. According to Cory, “I would wake up in strange houses, being very hungry, but too shy to ask for food.” Cory says this lifestyle took a toll on him and he realized he was developing feelings “he didn’t want to feel”. When an unexpected tragedy struck, the murder of his Aunt Brenda, Cory believed “something changed inside me. Something for the worst.” At 15 years old, Cory did methamphetamine for the first time and found that all of the feelings he did not want to feel were now gone, at least temporarily.

Cory reestablished a relationship with his mother because they now had something in common-methamphetamine. They used together regularly. Cory says, “The fun started becoming misery, leading to arrest after arrest.” As the addiction progressed, and the arrests piled up, Cory met a man, a “connection who I thought I could make myself a name with”. Cory tells of an offer of $10,000 he could not refuse. Guns were involved and he knew if anything went south they would kill him. Cory just describes the deal as “going south” and that his connection got busted in Atlanta. Cory knew they would be coming for him, so he did what he did best. He ran.

By this time, he had police detectives, bounty hunters, and now gangsters looking for him. Police were kicking in doors of his acquaintances looking for him. Bounty hunters were doing the same. However, the men Cory was most afraid of, the men he called the gangsters, finally found him. Cory was on a four wheeler he used to navigate back woods trails to avoid being detected. The men he owed money to found him on a road while on the four wheeler and ran him down with a “souped up Chevrolet at 60 mph.” The vehicle ran over him but he was able to get up and run, and full of adrenaline, ran across all lanes of I-75. He says he ran so hard and long he eventually passed out and woke up during the night to the brightest moon he had ever seen. Cory says he cried out to God asking him why he let him live. Cory said he felt God say “because I love you.”

However, Cory was not done running. He found a man that he thought he could trust that let him hide in his barn. Cory made a trap door in the floor of the barn to hide if needed. The police eventually found the barn but could not find Cory because he was well hidden under the trap door. The police were there for two hours searching but they could not find him. Cory said “There is a scripture that says God pulled me out of the miry clay. I heard that still small voice just like I did on that full moon night. That voice that said ‘I love you.” The police walked right over my trap door and it fell through. They had me, and the whole world was lifted from my shoulders. I was done running”

Cory’s mom had been clean for the last two years and was in a program called drug court in Ellijay. She told Cory this program had changed her life. Cory did not think Bartow County, where he was incarcerated, would allow him into drug court because he always ran when he was released from jail. And they didn’t. They refused to allow him to participate. However, Cory’s mom did not give up and Cory never stopped praying. Two months later, he received the paperwork stating he was accepted into the Appalachian Judicial Circuit’s Drug Court. A week later, Cory was sentenced to twenty years with two to serve in prison with serve time suspended upon completion of drug court in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit. Cory left the Bartow County jail with a pair of blue jeans the jail had given him, a white T-shirt, and a few books, including his bible. He was beginning a new journey that would start at the drug court’s men’s facility in Ellijay, The Depot.

Cory would live at a very structured life at The Depot for months while attending drug court treatment classes, 12 step meetings, and bi-weekly status hearings in front of Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver. He obtained a full time job at the local chicken plant. He excelled at his job and was soon promoted. After four months of living at The Depot, he was able to move in with his mother. They were both now sober. At age 27, he was finally able to obtain a driver’s license for the first time. In March of 2016, Cory passed his GED test. On November 17, 2016, Cory Chastain graduated from drug court and had been sober over two years. However, this wasn’t the end of his journey.

Cory was accepted into an underwater welding school in Jacksonville, Florida. He was turned down for all known financial aid. However, he did not give up, and the school agreed to finance his classes if he could put several thousand dollars down. Cory saved the money, and with his probation officer’s permission, took off to Jacksonville to start the road to a new career as an underwater welder.

Cory says that he used to be amazed watching Steve Irwin working around crocodiles. He had forgotten the dream of one day being like Steve until a recent training dive. Cory turned around while diving only to see an alligator, about 7-8 feet long, about 25 yards from him. Cory simply said, “All I could do was smile. I wasn’t scared. I was living a dream that I asked for many years ago. I now know that God had never forgotten my dreams.”

 



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