With a goal of reducing future prison admissions, the Sixth Judicial Circuit is expanding its drug court to serve defendants who might otherwise end up incarcerated.
Drug court, implemented into Pasco County in 2007, is a court-supervised, comprehensive treatment court for eligible nonviolent defendants. The new prison diversion option — expected to start screening in December and launch in January — would broaden the program to include nonviolent offenders with substance abuse issues who might be sent to prison under state guidelines. It would now cover nonviolent felony offenders, such as those charged with third-degree burglary, as well as some select second-degree nonviolent offenders.
Before sentencing, the state attorney's office calculates a score, or "points," based on charges and previous violations (if any). Generally, a score of 40 or more means a prison sentence, according to Chief Deputy Court Administrator Michelle Ardabily. Defendants who score less than 60 points may be offered drug court diversion in lieu of a prison sentence.
Pasco County Government and the Pasco Adult Drug Court was awarded a $200,000 Bureau of Justice Assistance Discretionary Grant to fund this project, and it's expected to target about 40 defendants over a two-year period.