Accountability courts

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The District Attorney's Office has been an integral part in the formation and continued success of the accountability courts in both Newton and Walton Counties. This includes the Newton County Felony Drug Court, the Newton County Resource Court, the Walton County Resource Court, and the Newton County Veterans Treatment Court. The District Attorney's Office staffs each of those Courts with an experienced Deputy Assistant District Attorney. Each Court is a collaborative effort with the DA's Office, a Superior Court Judge, local law enforcement, treatment providers, defense attorneys, and probation officers. 

While the specific goal of each Court varies, they all aim to protect the community by reducing crime and recidivism while also improving the life of the participants. Information and forms for each Court are below with a quick link to all forms to the right. 

NEWTON COUNTY FELONY DRUG COURT:

The Alcovy Circuit District Attorney’s Office assisted in the creation of the Newton County Adult Felony Drug Court (NCAFDC) which became operational in February 2013. The NCAFDC is a diversion program in that it provides an alternative to incarceration and length probation sentences for felony offenders who commit crimes due to drug or alcohol addiction. The program is designed to coordinate substance abuse intervention with judicial support through an immediate sanctions and incentives process. The program is voluntary and offenders that qualify plead guilty to their charged offenses and sentencing is withheld until they either successfully complete and graduate from the program or until they are terminated due to noncompliance. Ultimately though, participants that successfully graduate either have their charges dismissed or are given a significantly reduced sentence. The program is 18-24 months and requires participants attend group therapy multiple times a week, attend court during which time they discuss their progress with the founding and currently presiding Drug Court Judge W. Kendall Wynne Jr., submit to a curfew, random and frequent drug screens as well as home visits and searches. Participants are also required to attend other meetings for those that struggle with substance abuse outside of the program to assist in their sobriety. Moreover, they must maintain employment or perform regular community service while they seek employment.

 

The Drug Court treatment team is comprised of the Presiding Judge, Program Coordinator and Directors, Wes Long and Greg Chapman, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Amber Dally, Defense Attorney Teri Dopeke, multiple treatment providers from ViewPoint Health, Newton County Sheriff’s Office Surveillance Deputies, and a Probation Officer with the Department of Community Supervision.

 

Since its inception in 2013, 86 defendants have graduated from the Newton County Adult Felony Drug Court. The success rate of participants entering the program is almost 70 percent. A primary goal of the NCAFDC Program is to reduce recidivism through substance abuse intervention with immediate judicial review that supports addressing the offender’s substance abuse problem by utilizing a sanction/incentive process.  Additionally, the recidivism rate for those graduating from the Newton Drug Court is very low compared to the national average. Nationally, over 70 percent of defendants are re-incarcerated within 5 years of release from confinement. However, the Newton Drug Court maintains a low recidivism rate at 23 percent being incarcerated in the same time frame.

Link to Court's website

FORMS:

Drug Court Participant Referral Form

Drug Court Contract Form

Drug Court 4th Amendment Waiver Form

Drug Court Recusal Waiver Form

NEWTON AND WALTON COUNTY RESOURCE COURTS:

 

The Newton County Resource Court is an accountability court program designed to address the needs of individuals living in Newton County diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness who have committed crimes which may be related to that severe and persistent mental illness, with the dual goals of teaching participants how to manage their mental health conditions while living in the community and reducing overall recidivism. The program consists of four phases and lasts a minimum of 18-24 months, plus a minimum 6 months in aftercare. Participants who have been accepted to the program enter it voluntarily by means of a negotiated guilty plea to their charges or admission to a probation violation. Upon entering the program, participants remain living in the community, but will be required to attend and participate in weekly individual and/or group therapy, according to an individualized treatment plan. If prescribed, participants will be required to take mental health medications according to the prescription. Co-occurring disorders with drugs and alcohol abuse are common, and drug and alcohol treatment will be made a part of the treatment plan for participants deemed appropriate. All participants are required to submit random and frequent drug screens and property searches, and are prohibited from possessing and consuming alcohol and other addictive or abuseable substances while in the program. All participants are subject to a curfew and will be required to attend court and discuss their progress with the presiding judge on a weekly or biweekly basis.

 

The Resource Court uses a multidisciplinary collaborative approach to treat and supervise program participants. The Newton County Resource Court team is made up of the Presiding Senior Judge Samuel D. Ozburn, Court Coordinator Robert Fox, Case Manager Anna Watkins, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jillian Hall, Defense Attorney Jason Kang, treatment representatives from Southeastern Psychological Associates, Inc. and Viewpoint Health, a probation officer from the Department of Community Supervision, and surveillance officers from the Newton County Sheriff’s Office. The Resource Court team meets weekly to discuss the progress or setbacks of participants in their treatment plans and court goals and requirements. The Court then meets with participants according to their weekly or biweekly schedules and uses immediate sanctions to correct negative behavior and incentives to reward positive behavior. By entering into and successfully graduating from the Newton County Resource Court and its aftercare program, participants may become eligible to have their sentences reduced to probation instead of prison, or have charges reduced or dismissed. Participants who fail to abide by the rules and regulations of the Resource Court will be subject to termination and sentenced by the Court.

 

The Newton County Resource Court program began taking participants in the fall of 2013. Since then, 37 participants have graduated from the program, representing a graduation success rate of over 70 percent. Graduates of the program have demonstrated more success at maintaining stability and moving away from the criminal justice system than their peers. Although nationally, 68% of defendants are rearrested within 3 years, only 36% of the combined graduates of the Newton County Resource Court and Walton County Resource Court have been rearrested within that same time.

 

To be considered for eligibility the Newton County Resource Court program, applicants must have a pending qualifying felony charge or violation of felony probation with a minimum sentencing availability of three years, live in Newton County, and be diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental illness. Treatment records must be sent to the Newton County DA’s Office to be reviewed by Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney and members of the Newton County Resource Court team.

 

Walton County:

 

The Walton County Resource Court is an accountability court program designed to address the needs of individuals living in Walton County diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness who have committed crimes which may be related to that severe and persistent mental illness, with the dual goals of teaching participants how to manage their mental health conditions while living in the community and reducing overall recidivism. The program consists of four phases and lasts a minimum of 18-24 months, plus a minimum 6 months in aftercare. Participants who have been accepted to the program enter it voluntarily by means of a negotiated guilty plea to their charges or admission to a probation violation. Upon entering the program, participants remain living in the community, but will be required to attend and participate in weekly individual and/or group therapy, according to an individualized treatment plan. If prescribed, participants will be required to take mental health medications according to the prescription. Co-occurring disorders with drugs and alcohol abuse are common, and drug and alcohol treatment will be made a part of the treatment plan for participants deemed appropriate. All participants are required to submit random and frequent drug screens and property searches, and are prohibited from possessing and consuming alcohol and other addictive or abuseable substances while in the program. All participants are subject to a curfew and will be required to attend court and discuss their progress with the presiding judge on a weekly or biweekly basis.

 

The Resource Court uses a multidisciplinary collaborative approach to treat and supervise program participants. The Walton County Resource Court team is made up of the Presiding Judge Eugene M. Benton, Court Coordinator Robert Fox, Case Manager Anna Watkins, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jillian Hall, Defense Attorney Matt Quillian, treatment representatives Advantage Behavioral Health Systems, a probation officer from the Department of Community Supervision, and surveillance officers from the Walton County Sheriff’s Office. The Resource Court team meets weekly to discuss the progress or setbacks of participants in their treatment plans and court goals and requirements. The Court then meets with participants according to their weekly or biweekly schedules and uses immediate sanctions to correct negative behavior and incentives to reward positive behavior. By entering into and successfully graduating from the Walton County Resource Court and its aftercare program, participants may become eligible to have their sentences reduced to probation instead of prison, or have charges reduced or dismissed. Participants who fail to abide by the rules and regulations of the Resource Court will be subject to termination and sentenced by the Court.

 

The Walton County Resource Court program began taking participants in 2014. Since then, 24 participants have graduated from the program, representing a graduation success rate of 53 percent. Graduates of the program have demonstrated more success at maintaining stability and moving away from the criminal justice system than their peers. Although nationally, 68% of defendants are rearrested within 3 years, only 36% of the combined graduates of the Newton County Resource Court and the Walton County Resource Court have been rearrested within that same time.

 

To be considered for eligibility the Walton County Resource Court program, applicants must have a pending qualifying felony charge or violation of felony probation with a minimum sentencing availability of three years, live in Walton County, and be diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental illness. Treatment records must be sent to the Walton County DA’s Office to be reviewed by Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney and members of the Walton County Resource Court team.

Link to Court's website

NEWTON COUNTY VETERANS TREATMENT COURT:

The Newton County Veteran’s Treatment Court is an accountability court program designed to address the needs of veterans living in Newton and Walton counties who suffer from drug/alcohol addiction and/or mental illness and have been charged with new felonies or face a felony violation of probation with at least two years remaining under sentence.

The program consists of five phases and lasts a minimum of 18-24 months. Participants who have been accepted to the program enter it voluntarily by means of a negotiated guilty plea to their charges or admission to a probation violation. Upon entering the program, participants remain living in the community, but will be required to attend and participate in weekly individual and/or group therapy at the Veteran’s Association or in the Newton County community, according to an individualized treatment plan. Treatment will address issues of substance abuse, trauma, and other mental health issues where appropriate.  If prescribed, participants will be required to take mental health medications according to the prescription. Each participant is assigned a Veteran Mentor from the community to lean on for support as they navigate the program. All participants are required to submit random and frequent drug screens and property searches, and are prohibited from possessing and consuming alcohol and other addictive or abuseable substances while in the program. All participants are subject to a curfew and will be required to attend court and discuss their progress with the presiding judge on a weekly or biweekly basis.

 

The Veteran’s Treatment Court uses a multidisciplinary collaborative approach to treat and supervise program participants. The Veteran’s Treatment Court team is made up of the Presiding Judge, Court Coordinator Richard Kringer, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jillian Hall, Defense Attorney Teri Doepke, Veteran’s Justice Outreach Coordinator Thindwia Cabiness, treatment representatives from Southeastern Psychological Associates, Inc. and Viewpoint Health, a probation officer from the Department of Community Supervision, and surveillance officers from the Newton County and Walton County sheriff’s offices. The Veteran’s Treatment Court team meets weekly to discuss the progress or setbacks of participants in their treatment plans and court goals and requirements. Participants attend court to discuss their progress with the judge and are subject to immediate sanctions to correct negative behavior and incentives to reward positive behavior. By entering into and successfully graduating from the Newton County Veteran’s Treatment Court, participants may become eligible to have their sentences reduced to probation instead of prison, or have charges reduced or dismissed. Participants who fail to abide by the rules and regulations of the Veteran’s Treatment Court will be subject to termination and sentenced by the Court.

 

The Newton County Veteran’s Treatment Court began in 2017 and has graduated one participant to date, with future graduations expected on the near horizon.

 

To be considered for eligibility the Newton County Veteran’s Treatment Court program, applicants must be a veteran of any of the armed forces with pending qualifying felony charge or violation of felony probation with a minimum sentencing availability of two years, live in Newton or Walton County, and be diagnosed with a qualifying substance abuse disorder or severe and persistent mental illness. The Veteran’s Treatment Court program does not accept individuals who continue to serve in the armed forces through the Reserves or National Guard. Veteran applications must also have a qualifying discharge status from the military, and veterans with a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge will not be accepted. Veteran’s Treatment Court applicants will be required to submit a DD-214 with their application to be considered for eligibility.

Link to Court's website