Nine people working to beat their addiction to substance abuse were honored Friday night for graduating from the DeKalb County Drug Court program.
The ceremony and dinner were held downtown Smithville at the Heartland Café. The names of the graduates cannot be disclosed without their permission according to drug court guidelines.
Corey Pedigo, Drug Court Coordinator, said he is very proud of all the graduates. "I'm in their homes with them. I see their families. I see their kids. I've seen them get their kids back. I've worked with them in DCS and in their halfway houses. I've pushed them through treatment. I've argued with them. I've joked with them. I've laughed with them. I love them. I have a genuine affection for all of my clients. I myself am a recovering meth addict, being five years clean. It's so important to me. I have an attachment beyond belief to my clients. I do truly want them all to be well."
Judge Bratten Cook, II said that the drug court program is helping to change lives. "We have a juvenile and an adult drug court program and they're basically the same. We have six juvenile drug court participants and in our adult drug court we have twenty two. We just graduated nine, which is the largest graduating class we've ever had."
"Drug court is a program that is designed for non-violent offenders who are addicted to either alcohol or drugs and who have a desire to turn their lives around, not just a desire to avoid going to jail. In fact, in the process of admitting people into drug court, we let them know straight up that serving their sentence is a whole lot easier on them than all of the things they have to do in order to graduate from drug court. The various classes they have to do. The different workbooks. They have to come to court once a week. The minimum length of time is one year, although it's extremely rare for someone to graduate in one year. Usually it's closer to fifteen to eighteen months. We do not accept anyone who has a charge of violence against someone, whether it's assault, aggravated assault, kidnaping, rape, or anything like that or if they have a previous conviction for a violent offense, they're not eligible.", said Judge Cook.
"Over the years we've all seen people who go to jail and it's the "revolving door". In and out. In and out. As soon as they get out of jail the first thing they do is try to figure out where they can go to get their next fix . What drug court is all about is educating these people about how to stay drug and alcohol free. After all, for those educated and intelligent people, we all know that drug addiction is a disease. It's not a bad habit that someone just picked up. That's the thinking that some people have, but not many anymore because most people have become educated over the years and science has proven that addiction is a disease and it has to be treated as such.", according to Judge Cook
"Drug courts sprang up as a response to the "revolving door" philosophy of the criminal justice system that obviously wasn't working. So we take people into drug court. Most of them come straight from jail. Several of the requirements are that they must have a job. They must attend at least one meeting per day, whether that's A.A., N.A. or in-group sessions and they have to do that for the entire time they're in drug court,", said Judge Cook
"Many of the participants end up, as a result of their addiction and the trouble that they might get into, losing their children. Of the nine graduates we just had, four of them had lost their children to DCS custody and their children were placed in foster care or relative placement. As a result of their participation in drug court and getting themselves straightened out, they regained custody of their children. We all know that drugs don't just affect the person using them, but it affects their children, their spouses, their moms and dads, siblings, their employers and just everyone around them."
"As far as the economics of it, drug court is an absolute no-brainer. Sheriff Patrick Ray and I have had conversations many times and he has shared with me the podium at several different talks about drug court and has said that it cost somewhere around $16,000 per year, per prisoner to house people at the DeKalb County Jail. Well drug court costs less than $5,000. So it's a no- brainer. Do you want to spend $16,000 a year to house a prisoner and then turn them right back out without educating them or without giving them an opportunity to correct their behavior, or do you want to spend $5,000 a year and make them responsible, respectable citizens? It's a no brainer."