“I went down there to see Hal Rogers and them with the full drug court participants to let them know that money they spend here in Harlan County on this is money well-spent,” Alred said regarding his discussion with Rogers. “I was trying to talk to the congressman and let him see that money spent in Harlan is not wasted, that it is spent on Harlan County citizens and helping those who have a drug problem and helping them get their lives back in order and not commit any other offenses, which is better for everybody in Harlan County.”
Alred said the program currently receives no funding from Operation UNITE and the small budget for the program is coming from various sources. He added that volunteers have helped the program to stay “afloat.”
“I just want enough funding to help the people that need help in the program,” he said. “The help that we are getting is from our own people, and that is what I have faith in — the people of Harlan County.”
He added that more funding should come to the county from coal severance taxes.
“I think Harlan County gets short-changed from the state and federal government. I am very aware that in the last fiscal year $24 million in coal severance money was collected from Harlan County alone. I think we ended up getting back about $4.5 million in coal severance money,” he said.
While he said he didn’t know if there would be additional funding, Alred said the program will continue. He added that Rogers informed him that he would do all he could to seek more funding.
Alred said he has witnessed many people change their lives for the better since being a part of the program.
“The drug court program acknowledges what drug addiction is. It is a day-to-day battle for the rest of a person’s life to stay sober and clean and to move forward with their life and try to bring about a better result,” he said. “It is a good tool to help people to focus to try to deal with their addictions on a day-to-day basis and make them productive members of society. It is not a miracle cure to get rid of the drug addiction.”
For many people throughout the county who have a drug addiction the 18-month program serves as a second chance to improve the quality of their lives.
“The way we run the drug court in Harlan is a little different than other places. I think our drug court is much more intense. I have strict curfews and policies about making them go to work. They get a job and go to work if they are in the program, unless they are in college classes. But, they still have to do community service on top of their full-time college enrollment. We have had numerous participants receive mine training and become coal miners,” Alred said. “The program entails numerous drug tests per week and mandatory curfew inspections. We have a strict policy of no further criminal violations while they are in the drug court program. If they have any new violations they are terminated and sent on to prison.”
Alred said the drug court program has grown significantly in the time he has served as judge.
“When I took over the program I think had seven participants in it. We now have 81 participants in the program and are on our way to having well over one hundred,” he said.
He added that the high number of participants in the program does not necessarily mean there is a larger drug problem in Harlan County than in other counties.
“The drug problem in Harlan County is not any worse than it is in any other county in the state of Kentucky,” he said. “The difference is that in Harlan County, the citizens, the court system and law enforcement are all working together to help those who want the help and to deal with this problem and try to help those that need it and try to get things under control. We have really faced up to our problem and are taking it head on. I believe Harlan County is one of the few counties in the state that are really doing that right now.”