It’s no secret that the St. Clair County Drug Court has been a great success, leading to lower recidivism rates, saving taxpayer dollars and changing the lives of former addicts.

Now that success is being recognized at the state level.

Presiding St. Clair County Circuit Judge Phil Seay was recently elected to a two-year term as president of the Alabama Association of Drug Court Professionals, according to a news article by The Daily Home’s David Atchison.

A large number of treatment courts have been created in the state during the last 15 years, including St. Clair County’s drug court, which launched in 2009.

As president, Seay, along with the association’s board, is responsible for educating and training current and startup courts across Alabama, as well as managing and supporting the biannual training.

The board also performs annual grant reviews and grant awards for current and new courts in Alabama.

Seay has served as a district judge and then as a circuit judge in St. Clair County for more than 12 years.

He’s witnessed a dramatic reduction in re-offense rates for individuals who complete drug court programs. The St. Clair County Drug Court has graduated 151 participants, with only three reoffending after graduating from the program.

Seay said a person who fails drug court is sent to prison without any chance of probation if he/she is convicted of a new crime.

“We have only had a handful of participants sent to prison,” he said. “In fact, over 95 percent of those who apply and are accepted into the program graduate.”  

Another benefit: Seay said almost no state taxpayer money funds the drug program. “It’s a win-win. Our participants stay out of prison, saving an estimated $20,000 a year in prison cost.”

Participants pay taxes from employment income, are able to pay any child support obligation, hopefully preserve or improve their families, and pay all fines/costs associated with their initial arrest.

“When they graduate, their conviction is set aside and wiped off their record, allowing for better employment opportunities,” Seay said.

In addition to the drug court, St. Clair County also operates a veterans court; a Family/Dependency Drug Court that gives parents an opportunity to regain custody of their children following removal of a child by the Department of Human Resources; and is forming a Mental Health Court for nonviolent criminal defendants with mental illness. They hope to launch it by early summer.

Pervasive problems like those associated with prolific drug abuse and the criminally mentally ill call for progressive measures.

The judicial system in St. Clair County is a model for breaking away from the norm and pursuing methods that produce results.

Congratulations, Judge Seay, on your election.