55th District Court holds 17th Sobriety Court Graduation

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Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

The Honorable Donald L. Allen, Jr. celebrated the 17th graduation of the 55th District Court Sobriety Court on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 3pm in the Ingham County Courthouse in Mason.

The Executive Director of the Mid-South Substance Abuse Commission, Mr. Gary VanNorman, delivered the keynote address. He congratulated the graduates and reminded them that help was a mere phone call away. He gave each graduate a card with a hotline number to use if they thought they were drifting back to their old habits. "You will talk to a real person," he said.

"Our Sobriety Court continues to be a win-win situation, proving rehabilitation effectively protects the community, saves significant taxpayer money, and returns citizens to productive lives," Judge Allen said. "We are very proud of our program, our participants, and of the community support we consistently receive, The long term success of Sobriety Court is based upon close supervision of probationers by an interdisciplinary team dedicated to the safety of the community."

"It is a wonderful program," said Bobby Sees, a graduate. "It's been a long process but rewarding. I hope, for the future, that the funding continues." When Sees was stopped for drunk driving, it was his fifth offense. "I was looking at going to prison. This was my first intervention. I can now lead a normal life."

With this ceremony, there are now 194 successful graduates of the 55th District Court Sobriety Court. The program, begun in 2004, consists of comprehensive drug treatment, close supervision and full accountability. The time the participant spends in the program varies and can be as long as three years.

The 55th District Court's program is recognized by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), which was established in 1994 to assist the planning, implementation, and operation of Drug Courts. There are approximately 2,400 other operational Drug Courts in the United States.

These programs 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. Research continues to show that Drug Courts work better than jail or prison, better than probation, and better than treatment alone.

Nationally, 75% of Drug Court graduates never see another pair of handcuffs. In addition, Drug Courts provide vast savings to the criminal justice 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. At a time when budgets are increasingly strapped, Drug Courts represent a program with proven results.

This year, Drug Courts throughout the nation are celebrating National Drug Court Month in May with the theme "All Rise: Putting a Drug Court Within Reach of Every Person in Need." (http://www. nadcp. org/act/2010-national-drug-court-month)

Published: Thu, May 6, 2010

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