BARBOURVILLE -- "The drug problem is as prevalent today as it was 17 years ago," said Jackie Steele.
Commonwealth's Attorney for Knox and Laurel counties and Vice-Chair of UNITE, Jackie Steele was the guest speaker during Tuesday's Knox County UNITE Coalition Meeting. With 12 years experience as the Commonwealth's attorney and another five before that as assistant Commonwealth's attorney, Steele has seen his fair share of drug cases in the criminal justice system.
Steele is a member of the Laurel County and Kentucky Bar Associations, the 27th Judicial Circuit Drug Court Team, and the Laurel and Knox County Child Abuse Response Teams. He has served as a Board Member for Operation UNITE since January 2012.
During Tuesday's Knox County UNITE Coalition meeting, Steele informed guests on some different perspectives he sees both in his career and in his everyday life.
"The majority of our drugs are being imported," Steele told guests inside the Union College Patridge Meeting Room.
Steele said the majority of marijuana in the area is coming from California and Colorado. As for the other drugs, it's Mexican cartels that are contributing to an overwhelming majority of the areas methamphetamines. But it's pills that are causing the most overdoses in the Tri-County.
During a study conducted in Steele's office a few years back, research revealed that 85-90 percent of circuit court cases on the docket are drug related in some way. Steele said that number also hasn't changed.
UNITE is following up on the recidivism rates as more residential treatment options are becoming available. Steele also said a new statewide call center is being implemented.
"Anyone can call and say they need help and people will get them treatment," said Steele.
In his career, Steele said one of the most positive things for him has been watching individuals complete and graduate drug court, and speaks highly of the state's new Angel Initiative in which one of Steele's friends utilized. He also works on the adult literacy board helping individuals complete their GED.
"Employment is a big help to stop recidivism in drug use," added Steele.
If you're wondering why Steele is involved with things like UNITE and the adult literacy board, it's because he's trying to prevent individuals from ending up in the courtroom.
Education prevents criminal activity.
"Everything I do with the two boards is to prevent the work I do for the Commonwealth Attorney," added Steele.