From Coal To Diamonds At The Old Courthouse

Saturday, January 7, 2017

In East Tennessee's Roane County, The Legal And Personal Costs Of The Opioid Epidemic Collide At The County's Historic Courthouse

"Roane County is such a beautiful part of the country, with lush mountains and beautiful rivers. But we do have a terrible problem here, and it's opiate addiction."

Charlene Hipsher, assistant to the local prosecutor, helped launch a special "recovery court" with the goal of getting drug addicts into treatment instead of jail. 


Hipsher says recovery court is "intensive supervision and treatment" that provides addicts an alternative to a jail cell and the opportunity to overcome their addiction.

Her colleague Dennis Humphrey, general sessions court judge and recovery court judge, says they've found that, "more jail, more jail, more jail," is not effective in helping serious addicts who commit crimes.

"It does not remedy the problem," he says, "but something in the nature of a drug court does get to the heart of their problem, try to remedy that, try to work with them, to show them that we do care about what's happening."

TruckBeat is #FindingAmerica.

This piece was produced as part of a special series for NPR's All Things Considered by Matt Shafer Powell and Jess Mador of TruckBeat – part of Localore: Finding America, a national production of AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio. Find more stories at NPR and at Finding America.

Matt Shafer Powell

Matt Shafer Powell manages the news department at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. A two­-time national Murrow Award winner, Powell is an audio junkie who has spent time as a disc jockey, news reporter, writer/producer of commercials and sound ­recording engineer. He created TruckBeat's sister project at WUOT, Tenn Words

Jess Mador

Jess Mador is the creator of TruckBeat for WUOT. She's an award-winning public radio and multimedia journalist who has produced stories for news organizations around the country, including Minnesota Public Radio, NPR News and PBS member stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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