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TUSCOLA -- The two candidates for Douglas County state's attorney both say communication and rehabilitation programs are vital parts of their agendas.

The race is between Republican Kate Watson, an assistant state's attorney in the county, and Democrat Bryant Hitchings, an assistant state's attorney in Coles County.

Incumbent Republican Kevin Nolan isn't seeking re-election after 12 years in the office.

Hitchings, who prosecutes drug cases, said he wants to implement a drug court program in Douglas County if he's elected.

Coles County has had drug court for several years, and it's a program that focuses on supervision and responsibility requirements to try to end a defendant's drug use and crimes connected to it.

"The main issue is you're locking people up and when they get out, they're right back to the same behavior," Hitchings said. "If you get back to the base root, the demand, you're affecting sales on down."

Watson said she's also in favor of a drug court program, as well as other, similar programs that operate much the same way.

Substance abuse is "prevalent in many crimes we see" and diversion programs can also address mental health and other issues to combat repeat offenses, she said.

She said she also wants to develop an outreach program for juveniles.

"It prevents children from entering the system," she said.

Watson said her goals also include increasing communication with the county's law enforcement agencies to improve investigations and "build stronger cases."

She added that she plans to have an "open door policy" for communicating with the public.

"It's important so people feel they have a choice," Watson said.

Hitchings also said he thinks access and communication are important issues for the state's attorney's office.

He said he's heard from some people while campaigning that "communication has been lacking a little bit" with the office. The office could do better helping the public understand how it make decisions on whether to pursue cases, he added.

In response, Watson said that's something that will receive her attention if she's elected.

"I have heard that concern as well and it is something I want to address," she said.

Watson also said she thinks the candidates' experience "definitely matters" and it's something that's in her favor.

"When you look at the breadth of the experience I have, it makes a difference in effectively leading the office," she said.

Hitchings said he thinks he's had more experience with drug cases and programs such as drug court.

"Our experience levels are pretty similar," he said.



Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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