Federal Drug Court Program Kicks Off

Columbia, South Carolina — United States Attorney Bill Nettles announced today that the District of South Carolina is instituting a pilot Federal drug court, “The BRIDGE Program,” one of the nation’s first Federal pre-conviction drug courts.

The BRIDGE Program is innovative at the Federal level in that it utilizes a highly specialized team process, within the existing Federal Court structure, to address cases involving non-violent substance and drug abusers. The Program is unique in the criminal justice environment because it builds a close collaborative relationship between criminal justice and drug treatment professionals. A “team,” led by a judge and comprised of court staff, attorneys, probation officers, substance abuse evaluators, and treatment professionals, maintain a critical balance of authority, supervision, support, and encouragement. By increasing direct supervision of non-violent offenders, coordinating public resources, and expediting case processing, the BRIDGE Program aims to help break the cycle of criminal behavior, alcohol and drug use, and incarceration, ultimately reducing crime by lowering re-arrest and conviction rates, improving substance abuse treatment outcomes, reuniting families, and finally producing measurable cost benefits.

The BRIDGE Program is a cooperative effort between the U. S. District Court, U.S. Probation Office, Federal Public Defender’s Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. U. S. Attorney Nettles found Charleston to be a logical starting point for the pilot program, given the support and resources of the Federal Judiciary, the Federal Probation Department and local Law Enforcement Agencies. Although there are several State drug courts successfully operating in the State of South Carolina, the BRIDGE Program is one of the nation’s first Federal pre-conviction drug courts. U.S. Attorney Nettles stated: “I am very excited about the BRIDGE program, and the opportunities it presents. The program’s high level of defendant supervision keeps the public safe in the short term, while the program’s efforts at rehabilitating defendants keeps the public safe in the long term. And successful participants ultimately become more productive members of society. It truly is a ‘win-win’”.

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