The program also saves the state the cost of incarceration, which, at press time, was about $26,000 per year. These seven graduates combined were facing more than 140 years in prison. The drug court program is funded by the program participants, not by the state.
Those numbers are important. They give a measure of success and validate the program to those around who don’t understand its importance, but for those inside the program, the motivation is very different.
“That’s not why we do this,” Circuit Judge Doug Farris said. “Our focus is to turn people’s lives around.”
Farris admits the program has had its share of failures, but he believes the successes outweigh those.
One of those successes in this graduating class read his essay to those gathered. He said he began using drugs just before his 13th birthday. By 2012 he said he was cooking meth daily and didn’t care about anything except his next fix. He had dropped out of high school and was living off disability income.
Through his approximately 14 months in the drug court program, he has now gotten his GED, enrolled in college and given up his disability so he can work. He is studying heating and air and hopes to one day open his own business.
The diverse graduating class had one graduate who accelerated her program by also giving up smoking during the drug court process and another who went to a long-term recovery program and became one of the longest running program participants. As long as the participants are working toward their goals and obeying the rules, Farris and the other members of the committee say they will work with them.
Jerry Boyd, pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church, gave the invocation for the graduation and commended the graduates.
He also challenged them to become leaders in their homes and communities.
The speaker for the graduation was Circuit Judge Hoyt Elliott who commended the organizers of the program and the graduates.
He compared the journey of drug court to that of a mountain climber, complete with stumbling blocks and difficulties, but those made them appreciate their achievements that much more.
“I don’t often get to see success stories and it break my heart,” Elliot said. He pointed out that District Judges Greg Williams and Henry Allred were also attending the graduation. “It’s good for us to see success stories.”
Elliott closed with a poem written by Abraham Lincoln, called “It’s the Climb.”
All seven graduates received a framed order of dismissal of their charges as part of the graduation ceremony.
In addition, the drug court also honored one of its participants who passed away. Farris said Christopher Shane Roberts’ death was not related to drugs, and that he was doing well in the program when he passed away. His family was presented with a posthumous dismissal of his charges as well.