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Save drug court funding, judges plead

While lawyers and their organizations pressure the General Assembly to find money to fill vacant judgeships, Roanoke judges say they hope the state’s drug courts don’t become a target for Richmond budget cutters.

“Every year we have to ask for the money. Every year we face possible extinction,” Roanoke Circuit Judge Jonathan M. Apgar (left) told Roanoke lawyers Tuesday. He expects some legislators will see the state’s 30 drug courts as a luxury the state cannot afford, but he believes the opposite is true.

“Drug court saves much more than it costs,” Apgar said.

Drug courts divert nonviolent drug and alcohol offenders from criminal prosecution to closely monitored rehabilitation programs. For drug defendants, “it is by far the best thing we have,” said Roanoke lawyer Chris Kowalczuk, speaking in support of the program.

The first Virginia drug court began in Roanoke in 1995 with leadership from now-retired Judge Diane Strickland, who joined Apgar and Circuit Judge Charles Dorsey in discussing the program at a meeting of the Roanoke Bar Association.

By Peter Vieth

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