Wayne County Circuit holds fifth drug court graduation


By Taryn Hartman
Legal News

Every time a speaker stepped to the podium at Thursday’s graduation ceremony for the Wayne County Circuit Adult Drug Treatment Court program, he or she was greeted with an enthusiastic “Good afternoon!” from the graduates, their family members and friends.

“We didn’t just give them a certificate. They had to do something. They had to work for it,” said Judge Ed Ewell, presiding judge of the court’s criminal division and drug court team leader, as he opened the ceremony at the Salvation Army on Fort St. in Detroit. A total of 36 graduates were honored for completing the program at its fifth graduation ceremony since it began in earnest in 2003, and 16 were in attendance on Thursday.

The ceremony was held in conjunction with National Drug Court Commencement Day, when 1,600 other drug treatment courts around the country celebrated their graduations, according to Zene Fogel-Gibson, the coordinator for the Wayne County program.

“We had to fight for this money,” Chief Judge Virgil Smith told the room of the drug court and its purpose. “We are trying to keep as many people out of the Michigan prison system as we can.”

Drug treatment courts seek to rehabilitate criminal offenders with drug and alcohol addictions through close judicial supervision, frequent drug testing and by providing services such as assistance finding employment, all with an eye of keeping the offenders out of prison and away from the judicial system. The Wayne County Circuit Court also runs a similar program for juvenile offenders.

The keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony was Rev. Charles Adams of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, who himself has been in recovery for 15 years.

“These things in my bio, those have been done post-graduation from the horrors of addiction,” Adams, a Wayne State University alum, told the graduates after being introduced by Judge Ewell.

Adams spoke about the importance of faith, hope and love to staying clean as the graduates move forward following their treatment.

“You’ve got to believe that you’re important,” he said. “You know that your life is worth saving or you wouldn’t even be here right now.”