Thanks to a concerted effort from local stakeholders and others across the state, the Indianola Municipal Drug Court has successfully received state funding in the form of a $50,000 annual grant.
Judge Kuykendall Murry, Dr. Adrian Brown and Fourth Circuit Drug Court participant Willie Frank Roscoe traveled to Jackson on Friday to meet with a judicial panel about the possibility of gaining the additional funds to operate the court.
Murry told the city lawmakers, "The state awarded the $50,000, it's annual and we'll be going through the certification process for the next two months. So, we are off to a good start.”
Even though the court was funded, according to Brown, the approval did encounter some resistance.
He said, "We did receive some pushback from a circuit judge out of Forrest County, Hattiesburg. He provided some statistical data from a national level that basically said that the drug court was not helpful at the municipal level because you could not maintain the participants for a long period of time."
Brown said, in municipal drug courts, participants usually stay for about a year before they graduate, whereas in county or national drug courts it takes two to three years for them to graduate.
Brown told the board that State Representative John Hines was also present at that meeting and spoke on behalf of Indianola's drug court. He said Hines reminded the panel that the city had done all of the things that the state normally requires when it comes to funding these types of endeavors.
Brown said, "You had local participation at the city level, you had bipartisan support on a national level between both of our United States senators, Senator Hyde-Smith and Senator Wicker as well as Congressman Thompson, plus over 20 or 30 participants at the local level and we applied for a grant and got awarded at the federal level.”
In addition to the above-mentioned pushback, Brown said there was also another technicality that had to be overcome. "A circuit judge from Brookhaven, which is Lincoln County, alluded to the point that in 2013 the state stopped accepting municipal drug court applications, but when we started this process that never was disclosed to us; as a matter of fact our application was invited," Brown said.
He said that disclosure warranted the judges going into an executive session and after deliberating they came back and awarded the grant.
Rosenthal and the aldermen congratulated and thanked the team for their efforts and Rosenthal added, "I would like to congratulate Willie Frank because not only did he turn himself around, but he's become a very good city employee as well. So, we appreciate the work that he's doing on behalf of the city."
Brown explained first that the funds are a combination of city, state and federal money and said it would be more than $350,000 over the life of the project and amount to nearly $100,000 annually.
He said, "That $100,000 a year will be used for inpatient and outpatient treatment for participants that need assistance. It will also retain a drug court coordinator, a prosecutor, a defense attorney as well as a probation officer—someone to do the drug testing.”
Brown explained that in addition to that, money would be used to purchase the necessary drug court software to keep up with the statistics and to purchase a computer and other office supplies.
He said that $350,000 for a four-year program was not a great deal especially when the court hopes to service 25 people per year. "It will be a full-time project on a skeleton budget,” he said.
The court is scheduled to launch in January. Brown and Murry have also worked out a partnership with Sunflower County to use one of the courtrooms at the county courthouse to hold the drug court to allow for additional privacy.
Murry also added that the Indianola Municipal Drug Court will be one of only three municipal courts in the state and Brown added that it will likely be the last municipal court. “I think that's a huge accomplishment for Indianola,” Murry said.
Brown credited the hard-working testimony by participants, as being the reason Indianola was successful.
Roscoe, who has been a participant in the Fourth Circuit Drug Court for two years, accompanied Murry and Brown to the Jackson meeting and gave his testimony to the panel.
He said on Monday, "I've been living in Indianola all of my life and from 15 to 30, I've been getting into trouble, catching fines in Indianola city court. I thank God I made it to Fourth Circuit Drug Court to get the tools to live my life with.”
Roscoe, who is now 35, has been in jail and in prison for his crimes. “If I had had Municipal Drug Court with the same tools from the beginning, I would have never made it that far. Now, today you've got some that don't make it. It’s a blessing for me to make it this far. I probably could have been in jail or been in prison for the rest of my life.”
Roscoe said to catch the problem from the beginning would make a big difference in the community. He’s had a variety of charges levied against him over the years. "Every misdemeanor you could name, until I got some complications and then I started to catch felonies, felony after felony, then I went to prison.”
Roscoe currently works for the City of Indianola. “The same city that I made all those fines in, now I work for them. I work for the city. I've got my (driver’s) license, my own house. I've got my priorities together and that’s the best thing that could have ever happened to me,” he said.
He also praised Judge Murry for the role she has played in his life. “Kuykendall, when I first met her I could tell the love she had. She wasn't trying to hinder you because of what you did, she was trying to teach you what to do, not to do it again and I've been going before judges all my life and I've never met nobody like that,” he said.
Roscoe said the felony drug court, which is the Fourth District court, has the same kind of love and respect that Murry has. He acknowledged that he has appeared in Municipal Court once lately on a traffic violation and even then he only got encouragement.
He said Murry told him what to do and stayed on him to go and get it done. “And that meant a lot to me,” he said, “I wasn't used to that. I was use to, you guilty; you need to pay the fine. If you don’t pay the fine, you go to jail. And to meet a woman like that in 2019, I'm with her every step of the way.”