JACKSON — A veteran law enforcement officer will lead the newly created Office of Drug Court Compliance.
William T. Saul of Crystal Springs will supervise a team responsible for helping the state’s drug courts to implement best practices. Three other people are expected to be hired in the near future.
Saul said that the compliance office will provide training and assistance to drug courts to help them improve operations and implement best practices.
“My job is ensuring accountability,” Saul said.
Saul retired in December 2013 as commander of the Copiah County Narcotics Enforcement Unit. He worked for the Copiah County Sheriff’s Office for 22 years as a road deputy, cybercrime investigator, narcotics investigator and chaplain.
He has a background in business and property management, consulting and computer programming, including developing custom software for use by law enforcement. He worked in computer software development and as a business management consultant in Dallas. He served as a chaplain for visiting teams playing the Dallas Cowboys, and led home Bible study for the Cowboys.
Saul studied accounting and liberal arts at Mississippi State University. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Whitworth College in Brookhaven, where his study emphasis was translation of ancient Greek. He did graduate work in accounting at the University of Dallas, and earned a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. said, “Mr. Saul provides our state Drug Court office with deep experience, credibility and high energy. He is uniquely qualified to supervise the Office of Drug Court Compliance. I am confident of his ability to ensure best practices are followed around the state and that funds appropriated by the Legislature will be efficiently utilized to promote successful Drug Courts.”
The Office of Drug Court Compliance was created in response to legislation adopted in March that requires implementation of evidence-based practices and uniform certification in state drug courts. The legislation is part of the extensive criminal justice reforms in House Bill 585.
While all drug courts in the past have been required to be certified by the Administrative Office of Courts and follow a framework of treatment, testing and supervision, there has been variation in their operations. The recent legislation called for uniform certification. Minimum standards for drug courts set out in HB 585 include:
- use of evidence-based practices including use of a valid and reliable risk and needs assessment tool to identify participants and deliver appropriate interventions
- targeting medium to high risk offenders for participation
- use of current, evidence-based interventions proven to reduce dependency on drugs or alcohol, or both
- frequent testing for alcohol or drugs
- coordinated strategy between all drug court program personnel involving the use of graduated clinical interventions
- ongoing judicial interaction with each participant
- monitoring and evaluation of drug court program implementation and outcomes through data collection and reporting
In addition to tracking monthly enrollment activities, drug courts must report monthly to the Administrative Office of Courts the total number of participants who committed at least one violation resulting in sanctions, were arrested for a new criminal offense while in the drug court program, or were convicted of another crime. The 11-member State Drug Court Advisory Committee will review the information and make recommendations. AOC will submit an annual report to the Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review, PEER, with the first report due Aug. 1, 2015.
Mississippi’s 39 drug courts graduated 588 people during the 2014 fiscal year that ended June 30, and collected and returned $1,109,941 in fines to the counties, according to State Drug Court Coordinator Joey Craft. During that time, 2,902 felony adult offenders, 115 misdemeanor level participants and 366 juveniles were enrolled in drug courts. The state has 22 felony adult drug courts – one in each circuit court district statewide – and 12 juvenile drug courts covering 13 counties, three misdemeanor level programs, and two family drug courts.
Statewide, participants were drug tested more than 105,000 times during the last fiscal year. Of those, about 5,800 tests, or 5.5 percent, were positive for drugs while under the supervision of drug courts.
Drug courts seek to rehabilitate drug-using offenders through drug treatment and intense supervision with frequent court appearances and random drug testing. Drug courts offer the incentive of a chance to remain out of jail and be employed and the sanction of a prison sentence if participants fail to remain drug-free and in compliance with all program requirements.