It’s audit season at the legislature, and today was the statewide drug court program‘s turn to get vetted. Random visits to 10 drug courts — there are 39 across the state — didn’t find any major problems, though the audit report noted that courts need to collect fees in a uniform manner. It also stated that there needs to be a definition of “violent felony offense” in state drug court legislation — drug courts send people to treatment rather than jail, and legislators want to ensure that violent offenders are excluded from that option.

Judge Mary McGowan‘s Pulaski County drug court was one of the 10 examined — a point of interest to those following the upcoming judicial elections. As we reported this week, McGowan’s opponent in the race, Cecily Skarda, has raised questions about the judge’s administration of the court. Doug Spencer, who audited the drug courts, said McGowan’s court was in compliance with the ten key components state law requires drug courts to follow. However, he noted a discrepancy between the way McGowan’s court and other courts work. In other courts, the judge works with probation officers, lawyers, and counselors to decided whether an offender should be admitted to a drug court program. McGowan makes a decision about who should be admitted to the program before she works with the other players.

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