May 30 2017
Graduates Get a Second Chance to Live a Productive Life
Graduations are a familiar part of May, with thousands of students across our state finishing their high school and college careers to well-deserved pomp and circumstance. However, this month I attended another type of graduation in Columbia that is also marking a new chapter in the lives of Mississippians. As graduates of the 15th Judicial District Drug Court, 40 men and women are rising above addiction to create a productive future for themselves and their families.
Drug court graduations are much-needed success stories as our nation grapples with a serious opioid epidemic. They remind us of the power of second chances – putting into practice what the Bible teaches about healing and redemption. In addition to the recent ceremony in Columbia, I have been to drug court graduations in Hernando, Oxford, Booneville, and Hattiesburg over the past few years. Time and again, these occasions underscore the potential for nonviolent drug offenders to change their lives. They also demonstrate the support system that exists in our communities to address drug addiction. The opening of the Stonewater Adolescent Addiction Recovery Center in Oxford, which seeks to treat adolescent males struggling with drug abuse, is a perfect example. I look forward to attending the center’s ribbon-cutting on May 30.
Congress Responds to the Opioid Epidemic
Mississippi is not removed from the nationwide opioid crisis. A data brief released by the Mississippi State Department of Health earlier this month showed that overdose deaths from opioids have nearly doubled from 2011 to 2015. Whether it is the abuse of prescription painkillers like oxycodone or street drugs like heroin, addiction knows no boundaries of geography, age, race, or socioeconomic status.
To combat the alarming rise in opioid abuse, Congress passed the "Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act" last year, equipping local communities with more resources to raise awareness and offer effective treatment. Likewise, the "21st Century Cures Act," which became law in December, provides targeted grants to states for fighting the opioid epidemic.
Drug Courts Lower Crime, Produce Cost Savings
Drug courts are an important part of conversations about how to treat nonviolent drug offenders. The drug court system has been shown to lower crime, prevent re-arrests, and save money for taxpayers. Recognizing good candidates for treatment over incarceration – those who are nonviolent offenders with no previous criminal records – decreases prison populations and the accompanying costs. According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, as much as $13,000 could be saved for every individual served by a drug court.
I will always support efforts to get dangerous criminals off our streets. Drug courts do not compromise that goal, since they offer close judicial supervision to nonviolent offenders in rehabilitation. These courts actually help strengthen our fight against crime, with the Government Accountability Office finding that they significantly reduce recidivism and re-arrests. Entire communities benefit when the cycle of addiction is broken and families can heal.