More than 1,500 offenders have been given an alternative to jail time during the past decade through the Bessemer Drug Court Program, a joint project of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities and the Jefferson County Community Corrections program.
Jefferson County Judge Eric Fancher, who created the program with UAB officials in 2001, directed its 10th anniversary ceremony for the latest class of 17 graduates Nov. 18, 2011, in the Jefferson County Courthouse in Bessemer.
The drug court coordinates therapeutic interventions and provides criminal justice accountability for non-violent criminal offenders charged with substance abuse as an alternative to incarceration. The program boasts low recidivism rates, just 15 percent after two years, and helps reduce patient populations in the county jail.
Participants in the drug court program must comply with judicial monitoring, high-impact case-management services, an individualized therapeutic plan and random urinalysis testing. Other services provided include referrals and assistance with education, mental health, housing and employment placement plus opportunities for individual, group or family counseling. Inpatient addiction treatment is also available.
Participants also must complete community service as part of the program. In the past 10 years, 1,520 participants have provided 99,058 hours of community service to non-profit organizations in Jefferson County, an activity that organizers say helps participants better connect to the greater community.
TASC is a component of the UAB Department of Psychiatry’s Substance Abuse Programs.