Drug Court Program expansion to help low crime rates, officials say

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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The Fifteenth Circuit Court is expanding its Drug Court Program offering more drug and alcohol offenders an alternative to prison.

Officials with the court believe a rise in crime in Horry and Georgetown counties is drug and alcohol-related.

The program will now offer first-time drug and alcohol offenders to spend 90 days in the program instead of nine months. The nine-month time frame is for those with more offenses.

Those in the program will be monitored with group therapy sessions and drug and alcohol testing 2-3 times a week. It is a voluntary program where participants are connected with jobs in order to pay back victims, depending on the amount of restitution.

Richardson said over 550 people have completed the Drug Court Program which has been life-changing for participants.

“Upon graduating, 89% of those people will not be arrested for another crime within 5 years. 92% of those people will not be arrested for another crime within 1 year,” said Richardson.

Richardson said prison time alone will not solve drug and alcohol addiction. The opioid crisis has only gotten worse since the coronavirus pandemic.

CDC data shows reported drug overdose deaths rose in South Carolina by nearly 53% in 2020, that’s higher than the national average increase of nearly 30%.

He said, while the program is a success, big pharmaceutical companies play a major role in addiction rates.

“At the same time that we’re doing all of this and trying to fix the injured, we have to have some help at the federal level so that we’re not just a nation popping a pill,” said Richardson.

“‘Cause that gets a lot of people on there and then when the doctor tries to cut them off then that person has an addiction,” he said. Richardson said, the program now has the resources to monitor participants who are required to take prescription medication.

Participants will have the chance to get charges expunged upon completing the program.

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