2018-09-12 / Front Page

Accountability courts program expands to include Jenkins County

By Deborah Bennett
Millen News editor

Bulloch County’s accountability courts program is expanding to include all other counties of the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit – Jenkins, Screven and Effingham. Karen McClain, Ogeechee Circuit Mental Health/Drug Court Coordinator, announced the expansion last month.

“The Mental Health Court originated in Bulloch County in 2013 through a state grant specifically for Bulloch County. In July 2018, a Drug Court Program was implemented and both programs are now offered circuit-wide (Jenkins, Screven, Effingham, & Bulloch) under a state grant,” said Ms. McClain.

Total funding under the grant for the fiscal year which began July 1st is $185,163. This includes $166,163 from the state and $18,516, or 10% of the total coming from local counties. The local counties will divide the cost based on their populations with Jenkins County’s share of the cost being 6% or $1110.98 per year. Bulloch County’s share is 47%; Effingham County 38%; and Screven County 9%.

Bulloch and Effingham counties each had drug court programs under the direction of Judge John “Robbie” Turner.

When Judge Turner retired at the end of 2016, Judge William E. Woodrum Jr. presided over Bulloch County’s Mental Health Court until his retirement July 31st. Judge Michael Muldrew, elected in 2016 to succeed Judge Turner, agreed to take over as the Mental Health Court Judge and to re-launch the Drug Court in combination with it.

“I am excited about the Superior Court being able to expand Drug and Mental Health Court to the citizens of Jenkins County. We appreciate the Jenkins County Commissioners and Sheriff Robert Oglesby working with the court in making this opportunity available to those citizens of Jenkins County that find themselves needing the resources at either a Drug or Mental Health Court,” said Judge Muldrew.

The program includes a jail alternative which offers selected defendants who are facing criminal charges and who also have a mental health diagnosis or a drug abuse problem an opportunity to avoid further jail or prison time. Those selected must enter into a contract with the court which requires them to remain in treatment. Some of the treatment requirements can include attending support groups, taking any prescribed medications and staying free of abused drugs and taking drug tests. Participants facing felony charges can graduate in two years. Those facing misdemeanor charges can graduate after one year. Defendants with current charges or previous convictions for murder, armed robbery, rape, aggravated sexual battery or child molestation are not eligible. The Drug Court is for those with addiction problems, not those facing distribution/trafficking charges.

A team that includes representatives from the offices of the district attorney, public defenders, county sheriff’s offices, probation programs and treatment services agencies, as well as Ms. McClain and Judge Muldrew meets before each court session to evaluate participants’ progress and compliance and to review candidates for enrollment.

The Ogeechee Behavioral Health Division of the Community Service Board of Middle Georgia serves Jenkins and Screven counties. Pineland Behavioral Health-Developmental Disabilities serves Bulloch County and Effingham County is served by Gateway Behavioral Health Services.

Currently, participants from Jenkins, Screven and Effingham counties will be going to Bulloch County for the special court sessions. However, that could change with court meeting in these counties if participation in the program grows. One Jenkins County resident, one Screven County resident, and one Effingham County resident are currently being evaluated to admission to the program and two Bulloch County residents are ready to be admitted into the program. There could be six other participants from Bulloch County provided their criminal hearings are held in time.

Return to top