During his decades of public service, Jim Nunnelly has humbly accepted many awards. Soon, someone else will be receiving an award that bears the former COMBAT administrator's name.
Last week, the Jackson County Legislature unanimously approved a resolution establishing the James T. Nunnelly Award "to recognize the outstanding dedication and perseverance of a graduating member of the Jackson County Drug Court."
For his role in creating the Drug Court 20 years ago, Nunnelly was honored by the judges of the 16th Circuit Court during a special event last Friday (January 11) at Penn Valley Community College. Drug Court emphasizes treating rather than incarcerating non-violent offenders, allowing them to "graduate" after going through rehab and receiving other counseling. The Jackson County Prosecutor's Office operates the court, which helps participants begin their sobriety, find employment or enroll as full-time students.
Since 1993, the Jackson County Drug Court has become a model for other communities across the nation. Among the more than 2,100 people to graduate from the program, the recidivism rate is about 10 percent.
"So many people use drugs who are not criminals," Nunnelly said following last Friday's event, "and I think at some point we have to learn how to separate and treat those who need to be treated and jail those who need to be jailed."
Joining the Circuit Court judges in honoring Nunnelly were Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, County Legislators James Tindall (2nd District) and Dan Tarwater (4th District), and officials from the Missouri Supreme Court.
"Thanks to Jim Nunnelly's vision 20 years ago, so many people have gotten a chance to turn their lives around through the Jackson County Drug Court," stated Sanders. "Drug Court graduates have seized that opportunity. Not only has the program changed their lives, but it's made ours a better, safer community -- by transforming the graduates into productive members of our society.
"What a remarkable difference Jim has made in this community and in the lives of so many of our citizens. Anyone receiving the James T. Nunnelly Award should be truly honored."