Fort Bend

Fort Bend prosecutors receive first federal grant for drug court improvements

The district attorney’s office has received nearly $900,000 in funding to help nonviolent defendants get substance abuse treatment

Fort Bend County Justice Center
Courtesy of the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office

The Fort Bend District Attorney's Office has received a nearly $900,000 grant for its substance abuse courts, which work with nonviolent defendants facing drug or alcohol addiction.

Second assistant district attorney Wesley Wittig said it is the first federal grant the district attorney's office has received.

The grant will benefit the county's Misdemeanor Treatment Court, the Felony Drug Court, and the Expedited Narcotics Docket program.

The substance abuse courts work with defendants charged with crimes where drugs were the underlying cause.

Participants undergo intensive supervision and treatment. If they successfully complete the program, the charges are dismissed and they are eligible for an expungement.

Wittig said the grants will be used to hire a social worker and a program coordinator and help fund treatment for defendants and better screening tools to assess their needs, among other enhancements to the courts.

"We're excited to enhance the programs because we believe that intervention at this time is a smarter way of and a more modern way of prosecution," he said.

The county accepted the grant earlier this month. The money will fund the specialty court enhancements for four years. According to the grant project description, the money will also be used to create a Fort Bend County Community Courts Advisory Group and establish a Continuous Quality Improvement program to assess disparities and ways to improve the program.

Wittig said in the past, criminal justice was viewed as separate from community involvement. But now, he said, that's changing.

"What we're really learning is that crime and community are part of the same sentence," he said. "And how people live, what their needs are, where they're lacking are all factors that drive criminal decisions."