State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ray Price has taken on more duties than just guiding Missouri’s top court.
Price jokes when asked about his dual roles: he became Chief Justice July 1st, after being elected chairman of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals June 10th.
"Well, I wasn’t a very good golfer anyway, so I suppose I’ll be spending more time in the office and less on the golf course," Price tells reporters.
The concept of drug courts is a passion of Price. He first became interested in them while serving at president of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners. He helped develop them in Missouri shortly after being appointed to the Supreme Court in 1992. Price pushed for legislation to formalize the Missouri drug court system and formed a statewide drug court commission. Missouri now has more drug courts per capita than any other state.
Drug courts provide an avenue for non-violent drug offenders to stay out of prison. The courts guide a participant through a year-long program of treatment, which includes counseling and job training. Participants are subjected to frequent drug testing. The goal of the program is to reduce drug-related crime and keep the offender from going right back out and being arrested again.
Price is excited about serving his two-year term as association chairman.
"Drug court is a real different kind of a program," Price says. "It needs the cooperation of the judge, the prosecutor and the defender. If that cooperation is forced, it doesn’t work so well. What we really need are more resources."
Legislators have appropriated $5.5 million a year to drug courts, which have requested between $9-and-10 million. More money means more treatment. The treatment assigned by drug courts costs $2,000 a person. Price argues it not only works, it’s cost-effective, keeping non-violent offenders out of more expensive prison space.
Price has been a strong advocate for more funding for drug courts for years, hitting that theme especially strong during his previous tenure as Chief Justice, from 1999 to 2001. Price also currently serves as chairman of the Drug Court Coordinating Commission of Missouri .