Supreme justices fight against budget cuts that would affect drug courts

Supreme justices fight against budget cuts that would affect drug courts

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - As Gov. John Bel Edwards calls for a special session to begin on June 6 right after the regular session ends, state Supreme Court justices went before state lawmakers about proposed budget cuts that would affect courts around the state.

Criminal courts are not just focused on putting people away for breaking some laws, in some cases programs like Drug Court give offenders another chance.

"Theoretically and hopefully in practice these folks give you less recidivism, so the push is it's the economically better thing to do to try to get them over in Drug Court," said FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti.

Two justices went before the Senate Finance Committee on Friday to make a plea against proposed cuts to judicial funding.

"We're facing based upon the cuts made on the House side the most dramatic and drastic that the judiciary has faced in recent years," said Justice Greg Guidry.

The Re-Entry Program would also be affected. The justices said what has been labelled a 10 percent cut really would be twice that in reality.

"It costs about $3,500 a year to maintain someone in Drug Court compared to $35,000 to $50,000 to maintain them in prison which is where many of them would be if they were not in Drug Court," said Guidry.

The high court judges warned that the number of drug courts in the state could be reduced from 50 to 12.

But state lawmakers said while supportive of the court programs they have a lot on their plate, in terms of finding a way to fund state services.

"Look behind you, look behind you, to give you more money I to take it from waivers, to give you more money I got to take it somebody else," said Sen. R.L. Brett, R-Franklin.

"If you can get somebody to stop being a criminal through means other than incarceration, or get them to stop by any means that's pretty important part of the plan," said Raspanti.

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