Local Drug Court Celebrates “National Drug Court Month” With Graduation/Commencement Ceremony

Tue, 05/19/2009 - 2:44pm
By: The Citizen

In celebration of “National Drug Court Month,” the Griffin Judicial Circuit Adult Felony Drug Court held its first graduation ceremony on May 13 in the District Courtroom. This is the court’s first ceremony since its origination during the spring of 2007. The ceremony marks the completion of an intensive 24 month program of comprehensive drug treatment, close supervision, and full accountability by members of our drug court team.

“National Drug Court Month” is coordinated on a national level by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), which was established in 1994 to assist the planning, implementation, and operation of Drug Courts. This year marks a historic milestone in the Drug Court movement reflected in May’s National Drug Court Month theme: “Celebrating Twenty Years of Drug Court: Restoring Lives, Reuniting families and Making Communities Safer.” What started in a Florida court room twenty years ago has become the nation’s most successful strategy for dealing with substance abusing offenders and has led to today’s uplifting commencement ceremony.

“The jails in this country are full of people with substance abuse problems. These problems – drug and alcohol addictions – have led to the commission of crimes which disrupt our society, to the destruction of families and the ruin of individuals. As a society, we cannot excuse criminal behavior or thinking, but if we do not address the root causes of that behavior the crimes will continue. The Griffin Judicial Circuit Adult Felony Drug Court offers addicted offenders the chance to break the cycle of crime and addiction by addressing both their addiction and their criminal behavior. The work is hard and the responsibility to change rests solely on the shoulders of the individual, but change is possible. Individual lives and entire families can be salvaged. Our community can be a safer, healthier place to live. Without innovative approaches like Treatment Courts, we will simply have to build more jails and prisons,” said Griffin Judicial Circuit Adult Felony Drug Court Judge Tarey Schell.

Like many of the 2,301 operational drug courts in the United States the Griffin Judicial Circuit Adult Felony Drug Court hears cases of offenders charged with drug and alcohol related crimes. Drug Courts relieve already overwhelmed court dockets, placing offenders in an environment, where they undergo treatment and counseling, submit to frequent and random drug testing, make regular appearances before the judge and are monitored closely for program compliance. Graduated sanctions, including jail time, are imposed for noncompliance. Conversely, incentives are applied for continual compliance. And like the other 2,301 operational Drug Courts, this court works better than jail or prison, better than probation, and better than treatment alone.

“I would have never succeeded if it wasn’t for Drug Court. When you have people who care about your success, you tend to want to work a lot harder than for a judge who just sees you as a number,” said one recent graduate of Grifin Judicial Circuit Adult Felony Drug Court. Another graduate said, “The Treatment Court Program gave me a lot of insight into living sober, introducing me to the community (even though they have lived here for several years) and the benefits for me socially. I just believe it got me on the straight and narrow.”

Nationally, more than 70 percent of Drug Court participants have successfully completed the program or remain as active participants, and the cost of Drug Court programs are significantly less than the cost of incarceration in the traditional court system. A recent study by the Department of Justice found a cost/benefit of $3.36 for every $1.00 invested in treating drug-addicted offenders under the watchful eye of Drug Court. “In twenty years Drug Court has been one of the most researched programs in the criminal justice system,” said NADCP CEO West Huddleston. “The scientific community has put Drug Court under the microscope and concluded that they work. In fact, Drug courts significantly reduce drug abuse and crime and do so at less expense than any other justice strategy. This May, all across the nation, thousands of people are graduating Drug Court with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to serving their community. This is changing the face of our justice system.” Mr. Huddleston acknowledged the progress of the last twenty years but stated that more can be done. “In order to truly end the cycle of substance abuse and crime,” he added, “we must put a Drug Court within reach of every American.”

About the Griffin Judicial Circuit Adult Felony Drug Court

The Griffin Judicial Circuit Adult Felony Drug Court was founded in 2007 by Superior Court Judge Tommy Hankinson to address the Circuit’s growing number of substance-abuse related crimes. In cooperation with Turning Point, New Directions for Families, Inc. , and with the support of the County Commissioners, District Attorney and the Public Defender’s offices a program was created to provide unique treatment to the Griffin Judicial Circuit. As the program has continued to grow, it has continued to reflect the unique population of the Griffin Judicial Circuit and our distinctive needs.

Today the Griffin Judicial Circuit Adult Felony Drug Court has approximately 12 participants in various stages of treatment and sobriety. These participants are served by professionals from the Court, the Sheriff’s Office, the State’s Probation & Parole office, the District Attorney’s Office, the defense bar, treatment, and many others as each participant’s needs dictate. Additionally the Drug Court is advised by several members of the community at large, representing Griffin Judicial Circuit.

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