Two adults and four juveniles along with their families, friends and mentors, gathered Wednesday to celebrate their graduation from the DeKalb County Drug Court program.
The observance was held at the county complex. The adult graduates Tim Bogle and Crystal Baker and the four juveniles received a framed diploma certificate noting their completion of the drug court program through which participants commit to becoming clean and sober.
The drug court program provides an alternative to incarceration for eligible non-violent offenders. "Our juvenile drug court program began in 2002. As we speak today there are only four juvenile drug courts in the state of Tennessee. Of course we are one of them. In fact, DeKalb and Putnam Counties were the first two juvenile drug courts in the state of Tennessee. There are quite a few adult drug courts. Our juvenile drug court in DeKalb County was so successful the first few years of its operation that in 2005 we put together a plan to start an adult drug court program," said General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Bratten Cook, II in an interview with WJLE. "Tonight we had four juveniles that graduated and we had two adults who graduated from the adult program. Both of our adult graduates, during the course of their participation, had zero sanctions which is amazing. And when I say sanctions, it could be something as minor as not turning in a budget every week or missing a meeting. Certainly a failed drug test would be a sanction. But both of our adult graduates had zero sanctions. Both have been drug free for more than a year. We're extremely proud of them. Both of them came to us straight from jail as most of our drug court participants do so instead of the county spending some $18,000 or $20,000 a year each on our drug court participants, in drug court I think the figure is like $3,000 or $4,000 a year per person. It's a win-win for everyone, said Judge Cook.
"From the drug court staff point of view, we're the ones who really have contact with them all throughout the week," said Norene Puckett, Coordinator of the DeKalb County Drug Court program. "They (drug court participants) have so many requirements so for them to graduate with no sanctions is a very big deal. They have meetings they have to go to every week. Multiple meetings a week. Drug screens. They have to go through random drug screens. They have to turn in all sorts of paperwork to prove they are going to the meetings and have a job. Both of our adults are employed full time now and are active members of the community. The juveniles have all completed their initial treatment. They have completed A and D classes throughout the week. The Positive Action Prevention Program has also been completed by them and they are in good academic standing in their high schools," she said
"The adult program lasts a minimum of twelve months and the juvenile program is a minimum of six months. Any juvenile can be referred to the program through parents, through DCS workers, teachers, and various other ways. Once they are referred to the program, we do different screenings and assessments on them and make a recommendation to the court as to whether they (juveniles) would be good candidates for the program. As far as adult participants, they must have some kind of criminal charge (to participate in drug court). No violent offenders can be in the program. They can come (into the program) through a variety of ways as far as a violation of probation or any kind of drug charge, theft charges, and things like that. Typically they are all facing a minimum of a year to serve so this program is an alternative to incarceration. I've heard the judge tell plenty of participants it's a lot easier to just lay down there (jail) for a year and do their time and we make it very clear to them that it is easier. You can go down to the jail and get served three meals a day or you can get into this program and have a new chance at life. You can graduate like our graduates tonight who have over a year being clean and are working and having their children back and their lives restored. But there are a lot of things they have to do. A lot of the program teaches responsibility and teaches them the tools to stay clean. That's really the benefit to the participants. Of course the benefit to the community is that it saves taxpayer dollars. We get state grants and we're hoping to get a new federal grant that helps pay for the program," said Puckett.
The drug court graduation program Wednesday featured guest speaker Janice Fish-Stewart and former drug court graduate speaker John A. Williams. Stewart currently serves as the Human Resource Manager for YFS Automotive Systems in Gallatin. In her current role as Human Resource Manager, Stewart has designed and implemented Employee Wellness Programs in all of ABC Group's US locations. The program has received recognition from Wellness Councils of America and the Nashville Business Journal being cited as one of Nashville's Healthiest of Employers in 2011, 2012, and most recently in 2014. She served on the Board of the DeKalb County Drug Court in addition to facilitating the Clean and Sober Classes for several years.
Drug court team members who oversee the program locally in addition to Judge Cook and Drug Court Coordinator Puckett are Sheriff Patrick Ray, Assistant District Attorney General Greg Strong, John and Kay Quintero from Haven of Hope, primary treatment providers; Assistant Public Defender Allison Rasbury West, Probation Officer Ashley Lasser, Juvenile Case Manager Kristy Longmire, and Adult Case Manager Les Trout.
(PHOTO ABOVE: Seated- Crystal Baker and Tim Bogle. Standing left to right- Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss, John Quintero of Haven of Hope, Juvenile Case Manager Kristy Longmire, Kay Quintero of Haven of Hope, Assistant District Public Defender Allison Rasbury West, Drug Court Coordinator Norene Puckett, General Sessions/Juvenile Court Judge Bratten Cook, II, Guest speaker Janice Fish-Stewart, Matt Boss, Sheriff Patrick Ray, Assistant District Attorney General Greg Strong, and Adult Case Manager Les Trout)