The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) and the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) are opening the first state-wide residential Recovery Court in the nation, effective Aug. 1.
The court is located in the Morgan County city of Wartburg, which is about 45 miles west of Knoxville. A special Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony will be at 10:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 30, at 541 Wayne Cotton Morgan Drive, Wartburg, Tennessee 37887. Among those scheduled to be in attendance are Governor Bill Haslam, State Senator Ken Yager of Harriman, State Representative John Mark Windle of Livingston, and many others.
The 100-bed program has been established to allow the state to divert people in need of substance abuse treatment or mental health services from hard prison beds to effective treatment programs that are evidence-based and proven to have a larger impact on reducing recidivism. It will also allow for prison beds to be reserved for those violent offenders who are in most need of them.
This Recovery Court is different from the other Drug Courts and Recovery Courts currently in operation in that this one is more intensive than the current program and offers services on a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week basis. It will be operated by the Davidson County Drug Court Support Foundation, a private foundation.
The Recovery Court will cost much less per person than an average prison: While prison costs an average of $65 per prisoner per day, the Recovery Court will cost an average of $35 per person per day.
“While incarceration is expensive, this isn’t just about saving dollars,” says TDMHSAS Commissioner Douglas Varney. “It is about doing what is best for public safety.”
Nationally, people who participate in evidence-based community programs that meet their needs recidivate at about one-third the rate of people who don’t. Alternative sentencing should be reserved for those offenders that are most in need. Drug offenders have been proven to have success in drug court programs that effectively address their needs.
“This program should not be considered being soft on crime,” says TDOC Commissioner Derek Schofield. “What it says is that we’re going to place people in the best option to ensure they don’t re-offend. But also, we’re going to make sure we have a prison bed available for people who commit violent offenses that harm our communities.”
TDMHSAS and TDOC are working on this project in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Tennessee Department of Health, and the Davidson County Drug Court.