Drug courts get an audit | Arkansas Blog

Friday, May 9, 2008

Drug courts get an audit

Posted By on Fri, May 9, 2008 at 11:50 AM

It's audit season at the legislature, and today was the statewide drug court program's turn to get vetted. Random visits to 10 drug courts -- there are 39 across the state -- didn't find any major problems, though the audit report noted that courts need to collect fees in a uniform manner. It also stated that there needs to be a definition of "violent felony offense" in state drug court legislation -- drug courts send people to treatment rather than jail, and legislators want to ensure that violent offenders are excluded from that option.

Judge Mary McGowan's Pulaski County drug court was one of the 10 examined -- a point of interest to those following the upcoming judicial elections. As we reported this week, McGowan's opponent in the race, Cecily Skarda, has raised questions about the judge's administration of the court. Doug Spencer, who audited the drug courts, said McGowan's court was in compliance with the ten key components state law requires drug courts to follow. However, he noted a discrepancy between the way McGowan's court and other courts work. In other courts, the judge works with probation officers, lawyers, and counselors to decided whether an offender should be admitted to a drug court program. McGowan makes a decision about who should be admitted to the program before she works with the other players.
One other item of note: the audit found the drug court program doesn't have money to pay for prescription drugs or basic medical and health treatment. So some offenders are actually choosing to go to jail rather than accept treatment. There were no numbers on how prevalent this is.

At the same hearing, a separate report found fiscal mismanagement in the Hermitage School District under Superintendent John Jordan, who resigned last September. Jordan improperly authorized and concealed payments to a contractor who was also a district employee. State law prohibits a contractor from doing business with a district that employs him. The audit did not find that Jordan profited personally, so motive for the racket is still murky.

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