Missouri chief justice: more drug courts for opioids fight
By SUMMER BALLENTINE
Jan. 24, 2018
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Chief Justice Zel Fischer called Wednesday for expanded drug treatment courts to help fight opioid misuse in the state.
Fischer told lawmakers gathered in the Missouri House for the annual State of the Judiciary speech that he expects treatment courts "will be on the front lines of the opioid battle." But he said admission into programs has dropped an average of 23 percent since a 27 percent funding cut this fiscal year.
He added that there are now 15 counties without access to any type of treatment court.
"No doubt the success of our treatment courts has largely depended on the cooperation we have had from our partners in the Legislature," Fischer said. "If we are to break the cycle of drugs and crime, every Missourian in need should have a treatment court program within reach."
Fischer then pledged to work with lawmakers during the 2018 session to expand access to drug courts, which drew a standing ovation from lawmakers.
The chief justice also said a task force of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys is working on recommendations to change the way bail is handled. His predecessor, Justice Patricia Breckenridge, also spoke to lawmakers about that last year.
Fischer said jails should be reserved for defendants who pose the most danger to communities or are most likely to run away, not those who are "simply too poor to post bail."
He said even short jail stints can mean missing school, or losing jobs or housing.
Fischer also addressed concerns about prison overcrowding and growing spending on incarcerations. He said another Missouri task force is developing legislative proposals for lawmakers to consider.