BRUNSWICK COUNTY -- One Brunswick County judge estimates 90 percent of the cases that come through the courthouse are drug-related. That's why she wants to get a special court called a "drug court" up and running. The purpose of a drug court is to offer rehabilitation and other alternatives to serving time behind bars. The seven-person team spent last week in Los Angeles getting special training on how to run a drug court. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis is spearheading the effort and has wanted to start a drug court for more than ten years. The program would focus on treating people with substance abuse problems to both help them recover and -- most importantly -- to reduce the number of crimes that are committed because of drug use. It would not be an easy program. Participants would have to appear in court every two weeks, maintain a curfew, get at least a GED and a job, go through drug testing and more. Defense attorney Jason Disbrow said, "The problem currently in most counties without a drug court is that we're not treating the individual. An individual's placed on probation, although they may get some type of substance assessment and may get some type of treatment, it's not nearly as intensive enough." The drug court would be a 12 to 18 month-long program. The drug court team is waiting to hear back about state and federal grants for the program. The members hope to hear back by the end of April and have the program up and running by late this summer. Meanwhile, New Hanover County has had a drug court for about ten years. Its coordinator says it has been a big success. It currently has 51 active clients and is saving taxpayers a lot of money.
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